NEW GLOUCESTER — A citizen’s petition to force a special town meeting to vote on a proposed new public works garage in New Gloucester has surpassed the number of required signatures.
Selectboard Chairwoman Linda Chase said 308 signatures collected were verified by the town clerk, surpassing the 283 signature threshold for a petition to compel the Selectboard to act. That threshold is set as 10 percent of the number of town voters who voted in the last gubernatorial election.
Chase said the Selectboard must now move toward scheduling a special town meeting on the $4.6 million public works proposal. Chase said the petition is on the board’s agenda for its next meeting on Monday, Sept. 18. “And then we’ll see,” she said.
Kathleen Potter said that she and three other leaders of the petition effort – former public works design committee member Beverly Cadigan, former planning board member Jean Libby, and former Selectboard member Jane Sturgis – plan to attend Monday night’s Selectboard meeting to answer any questions about the petition should they arise.
Chase has asked Town Manager Carrie Castonguay to look at possible dates for the special town meeting.
The petition effort came after the Selectboard deadlocked Aug. 21 on a vote to approve the warrant for a Sept. 18 special town meeting. That stalemate was driven by disagreement about whether the garage should be located at the proposed 611 Lewiston Road site or at the current garage site at 1036 Lewiston Road.
Both Selectmen Stephen Hathorne and Joseph Davis voted against approving the warrant, and have expressed concerns about the 611 Lewiston Road site.
“I think the biggest thing is that everybody felt their right to vote was taken away from them,” Potter said, also noting that there were “a lot of people involved in getting signatures.”
Potter said previously and reiterated again this week that some people supporting the petition effort don’t necessarily support the public works garage proposal as written, but think the town voters should have a say.
Hathorne, who continues to oppose the proposal because of the location but supports the idea of a new garage generally, said that on Monday he will “vote to put the petition through.”
Hathorne said at the Aug. 21 meeting that he would “not have tainted water or blood on my hands” before voting against approving the warrants, a reference to his concerns about traffic and groundwater impact at the proposed garage site. He said that if the petitioners and voters decide that’s the site they want, then he won’t feel that he has blood on his hands.
“They’ve got more power than I’ve got. God bless ’em. Bring it on. And I mean that in a good way,” Hathorne said about the citizens having the power of petition. He has previously noted that he helped lead a similar citizen’s petition for term limits that was ultimately successful at the annual town meeting this May.
Chase explained that whenever a petition effort is starting, regardless of its goal, she’s glad if it eventually succeeds because it represents the will of voters.
“I am glad that they succeeded at their mission,” Chase said. “I’m always glad to see that (petition efforts have) succeeded, because that’s really what government is all about.”
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
The current New Gloucester public works garage is located at 1036 Lewiston Road.