BETHEL – The town of Rangeley and two of five nearby plantations overwhelmingly turned down a plan to join its school system with SAD 44 in Bethel, 75 miles away.

Every town in SAD 44 voted for the merger by a total of 297-215.

Rangeley voted 22-170 against joining with SAD 44. Rangeley Plantation voted 2-30; Dallas Plantation, 2-96.

Results from Sandy River, Lincoln and Magalloway were not available.

Votes in the SAD 44 towns were: Andover, 48-33; Bethel, 146-102; Greenwood, 25-20; Newry, 25-14; and Woodstock, 53-46. The unaffiliated towns of Gilead and Upton voted 19-3 and 11-8, respectively.

SAD 44 Superintendent David Murphy said Tuesday night that he knew it would be close in his district, and he was also not surprised that Union 37 voted against the merger.

“School consolidation is a choice towns have to make. I respect their decision,” he said. “We had a very amicable Reorganizational Planning Committee and we got to know the people.”

Now, he is hoping the state won’t penalize his district for not joining with another district.

“We’ll rejoice that we passed it and hope the Legislature won’t penalize us,” he said.

That penalty could be just over $185,000.

SAD 44 had unsuccessfully sought several other administrative partners under the state’s mandate for school consolidation prior to the proposed merger with Union 37 so he’s not sure whether another opportunity will arise.

“It will be difficult to find other options,” he said.

School Union 37 is subject to a $98,000 penalty from the state.

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