Dennysville residents vote not to continue with deorganization

70 percent of participating voters cast ballots against continuing with the deorganization process.
Violet Willis stands in front of a sign for the Dennysville Town Office.
Third Selectwoman Violet Willis of Dennysville. Photo by Alan Kryszak.

Dennysville residents voted not to continue with the process to deorganize the town, following a discussion with representatives from the state and county at a meeting earlier this month.

With 40 citizens attending the meeting, the vote at the end of the meeting saw 21 against and 9 in favor of continuing with deorganization, effectively ending the process.

The meeting was one of the first steps that a town must take in the process of becoming an unorganized territory (UT).

Along with Dennysville residents, five representatives from state and county departments that deal with matters in the unorganized territories were at the meeting: Nancy Bodine, fiscal administrator of unorganized territories; Rick Colpitts, director of education in unorganized territories; Ben Godsoe of the Land Use Planning Commission; Lisa Winehort, taxation in unorganized territories; and Dean Preston, supervisor of unorganized territories for Washington County.

They presented pertinent information that the citizens of Dennysville needed to know in order to make an informed decision about deorganization of the town.

Bodine explained that about half of the State of Maine is unorganized territory and that there are 400 unorganized townships in Maine containing about 9,000 people. She also stated that, when a town deorganizes, the citizens lose all municipal authority and that there is no municipal voting process in the UT.

The town must document valid reasons why deorganization is being considered, so a committee of citizens prepares a document outlining these reasons. This is then presented to the Maine Legislature through its State and Local Government Committee.

Rick Colpitts talked about the educational aspect of being unorganized. He said that there are 821 students living in the UT statewide; 700 are tuitioned to neighboring towns, and a little over 100 attend schools within the UT system.

Edmunds Consolidated School is the next-door neighbor of Dennysville, so its students would be expected to attend that school, which most of them already do. There are no school committees in the UT, as its educational system is not a School Administrative District (SAD), a Regional School Unit (RSU) or an Alternate Organizational Structure (AOS). Dennysville would have to formally withdraw from AOS 77.

Ben Godsoe said that the Land Use Planning Commission is to the UT what a local planning board and board of appeals are to an organized town. The commission is a nine-member board and has a professional staff of 19 with offices all over the state but not in Washington County, the closest office being in Bangor.

All town rules and regulations would end, and state procedures would be adopted. A land use inventory would be done, which would also deal with wetlands, shorelands and wildlife habitat, among other things.

Lisa Winehort related that her office of 28 employees, none of whom are located in Washington County, and sends out 24,000 tax bills for UT properties across the state. The tax rate for UT properties is different for each county, and the town would go through a revaluation process. The town office and the Lincoln Memorial Library buildings would have to be sold.

Dean Preston told the group how the county of Washington fits into the unorganized territory picture. He said that there are 42 towns and 35 UTs in the county, and for the UTs the county provides for road maintenance, animal control, shellfish management, solid waste disposal and elections, among other things.

Cemetery trust funds may be transferred to the state or county, and the Washington County UT takes care of 12 cemeteries. Washington County unorganized territories contain 1,600 people, with that number climbing to 2,100 in the summer.

The whole process of deorganization would take two to three years to complete, residents at the meeting were told, before deciding to not proceed with the process.

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This story was originally published by the Quoddy Tides, and is republished here with permission. 


Mary McFadden

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