'You took my vote away'

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NEW GLOUCESTER — Selectmen on Monday night unanimously approved a special town meeting to vote on a $4.6 million garage and sand shed, after four “old ladies” spearheaded a petition drive.

Jean Libby, mother of Selectman Steve Libby, delivered a petition to town officials Sept. 6 calling for a town vote on the project. A total of 307 signatures attached were certified Sept. 11.

Libby, Jane Sturgis, Kathleen Potter and Beverly Cadigan, calling themselves “four old ladies,” led the successful effort. Three of them castigated Selectmen Stephen Hathorne and Joseph Davis on Monday night for voting against a town meeting so residents could have their say on the project.

Hathorne and Davis were the dissenters in a 2-2 vote Aug. 21 that defeated the motion for a town meeting.

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“The town of New Gloucester citizens need the right to vote, and years have gone on for this project,” Sturgis, a former selectman who worked on the petition, said. “You had no right to take away the right of citizens to vote.

“I was very disappointed in Joe and Steve,” she said. “Instead of tabling the warrant for a special town meeting, you found it a fine time to stop the warrant for the town to vote on the town garage.”

Cadigan, a member of a citizen committee working on the project, said she was disappointed in fellow committee member Davis for his action.

“I don’t think any selectman has the right to vote against a warrant to take a citizen’s right to vote from them,” she said.

Potter, who worked on the petition, said, “When you take an oath as a selectman, it’s your responsibility. You took training. A warrant must be put forward for the people of the town to vote. Think about what you’ve done.”

Dennis McCann grilled Hathorne and Davis for their lack of support to residents and their personal views that disagreed with Oak Point Associates’ engineering studies that rated six possible sites for a garage.

“You took my vote away,” McCann said, adding he trusted the engineers and safety data on the site, which has the town fire station.

Deborah Hall told the board, “It is extremely important for citizens to be able to vote either for it or against it. The people need to say what they want. I want it to go forward. You need to know what citizens want.”

The Upper Gloucester town garage has cracked load-bearing walls and crumbling masonry block, roof and wall leaks and insufficient insulation. It also has outdated mechanical systems and driveway safety issues.

The town meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16, at Memorial School, 86 Intervale Road. The warrant calls for a vote on a new public works complex at 611 Lewiston Road and a vote to approve an amendment to the Pineland Municipal Development Tax Increment Financing District.

According the McCann, the impact to taxpayers for a new building is estimated to be a $35 increase on a home valued at $200,000.

The women who led the successful petition drive for a special town meeting on a new town garage for New Gloucester are, from left, Jane Sturgis, Kathleen Potter, Beverly Cadigan and Jean Libby.

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