NEW GLOUCESTER — A second petition relating to the proposed new town public works garage in New Gloucester did not receive the necessary 283 valid signatures to move forward.
The second citizen’s petition called for the Selectboard to reconsider the results of the Oct. 16 special town meeting where voters approved the proposal to build a new public works garage at 611 Lewiston Road – and called for a new special town meeting on the subject.
According to both Town Manager Carrie Castonguay and Selectman Stephen Hathorne, the petition was four votes short with 279 valid signatures because a dozen of the signatures submitted were not from registered town voters.
“We put a lot of hard work into it, and to come up four short is embarrassing to say the least,” said Hathorne, who helped collect signatures for the petition.
Pat O’Brien presented the second citizen’s petition at Monday night’s Selectboard meeting. The push for reconsideration is based in part on allegations that the owner of Ganneston Construction, the firm slated to build the new garage, purchased signs encouraging people to vote yes on the proposal and gave the signs to the town public works director, who then allegedly had staff members place some of the signs around town.
“Whether you voted yes or no on article three, as a citizen, you are entitled to know the process leading up to the vote was fair,” O’Brien said.
Ganniston owner Stacey Morrison and Town Manager Carrie Castonguay have confirmed that Morrison purchased the signs, but Castonguay has declined to say whether town staff helped put the signs up around town, calling it a personnel matter that “already has been resolved.”
Organizers said the second petition garnered 291 signatures and was turned in Monday for validation after two days of circulation. Castonguay said Tuesday that the required number of valid signatures is 283, the same number she said was needed when the first petition was submitted (based on 10 percent of the town voters in the last gubernatorial election).
The initial special town meeting was forced by a previous citizen’s petition led by a group of self-described “old ladies” who said they wanted voters to have a voice on the garage issue after the Selectboard deadlocked 2-2 in August on whether to approve the warrant for a town meeting.
Hathorne said Wednesday that 12 of the signatures on the second petition ended up coming from people not registered to vote in the town. He also acknowledged that some involved in the petition effort incorrectly thought the signature requirement was 273.
According to Hathorne, the petitioners would need to get an extension from the Selectboard in order to be able to get more signatures added to this petition.
“I don’t really see it going forward,” Hathorne said.
Though the reconsideration petition had not yet been denied, the Selectboard voted 3-2 Monday night to authorize Castonguay, pending review from town legal council at Bernstein Shur, to move forward to finalize the contract with Ganneston.
“Ganneston Construction is very much looking forward to building a new Public Works Building for New Gloucester. We take the responsibility of constructing a public building very seriously,” read a prepared statement from Ganneston Construction provided after the vote. “We appreciate this vibrant community and the opportunity to work together on this important project.”
Selectboard Chairwoman Linda Chase, Steven Libby, and Lenora Conger voted for the motion to move forward with the contract. Selectmen Joseph Davis and Hathorne apposed the measure.
Chase also clarified that the discussion about purchasing the vote yes signs did not happen with the entire garage design committee. Chase said that Morrison offered to buy the signs at a meeting with the Town Manager, Public Works Director, and design committee chairman Jim Fitch.
Morrison said last week that she offered to pay for the signs.
Even before the reconsideration petition was denied, Hathorne thought Monday night’s vote indicated that the petition would “basically be paid no regard.”
“If they were serious about the petition, they would have postponed,” he said Monday night about the vote to move forward with the construction contract. “I think [the board] acted irrational this evening.”
O’Brien said Wednesday that another petition effort could be started, and that other legal avenues were also being considered.
“I think that this is not going away by any means,” O’Brien said.
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
Beverly Cadigan, back row, confronts Pat O’Brien, front row, during the Oct. 23 New Gloucester Selectboard meeting.
New Gloucester Selectmen Joseph Davis, second from right, and Stephen Hathorne voted against a motion Monday night to move forward with a construction contract for the new town public works garage approved by voters at a recent special town meeting.