AUGUSTA — Members of a legislative committee voted 6-4 Wednesday to recommend a bill that would enable Livermore Falls to withdraw from Androscoggin County and join Franklin County.
The initial wording of LD 27 submitted by Rep. L. Gary Knight, R-Livermore Falls, required voters in Livermore Falls to vote by referendum on the measure. If it passed there, towns in Franklin County would vote on it.
The Legislature's State and Local Government Committee amended the bill to require a vote by Androscoggin County towns, as well.
The bill next will go to the Maine House of Representatives to be debated.
Livermore Falls Town Manager Kristal Flagg testified at a March 13 public hearing in support of the bill. About five years ago, voters in a straw poll favored, by a ratio of 2-1, joining Franklin County.
The process did not move forward at the state level.
Among the issues cited in Flagg's testimony were that the town works closely with Jay, and the Franklin County jail and courts are closer, which could save the town money. Flagg said the town is asking permission to move forward and to be allowed the opportunity to seek more information on the financial impact of joining Franklin County.
Livermore Falls police Chief Ernest Steward and Alison Hagerstrom, executive director of Greater Franklin Development Corp., also testified in favor of the bill.
A letter from Leeds selectmen to Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, a co-sponsor of the bill, asked Mason to “please kill the bill LD 27.”
The letter is included in the public record of the hearing.
“We the selectmen do not support this bill and ask that you not support it,” the letter stated. It's signed by Selectmen A. Theodore Barker, Errol F. Additon and Dwight G. Buckley. “We see no advantage to the Town of Leeds should this bill pass. This bill would just increase our share of county taxes.”
Livermore Falls resident Maurice Castonguay also testified against the bill. He is a former legislative candidate who ran against Knight in the last election and lost his bid to represent Leeds, Livermore, Livermore Falls and Wayne in District 81.
During the work session on the bill Wednesday, at least one committee member said it sounded as if the bill as it was initially written would circumvent state law.
The statute requires both counties involved, as well as the town, to vote on the bill. The committee has the right to require only Franklin County to vote on it, according to a staff analyst. The bill does not change the statute; it changes the process, she said.
Knight said the bill required only Franklin County to vote on the bill because Androscoggin County would lose Livermore Falls' money but would also not have to provide services.
The tax commitment for the town of Livermore Falls to Androscoggin County is about $162,000. The town has nearly 3,200 residents.
Knight said that prior to bringing the issue to a vote in Livermore Falls, some study would be done to see whether the move would benefit the town.
His bill would give the town the authority to do the studies, he said.