NEW GLOUCESTER — A back and forth between two competing interests led the Board of Selectmen to decide future town meetings will require voters to register before being seated for the meeting.

The decision for a voter check-in came on the heels of a special town meeting Feb. 16, when it came to light that some voters might not be registered.

More than 200 voters at that meeting approved the construction of a $2.4 million public water system for Upper Gloucester village. The system will serve an area where private wells were polluted by benzene, MBTE and salt dating back to the 1980s. Construction will begin this spring.

Town Planner Paul First said Tuesday that the Upper Village has 21 users who have pollution from gasoline and salt or are at risk for pollution. However, the project will serve about 50 customers, in total.

During the audience participation portion of Monday’s selectmen meeting, three members of the public addressed the board about the water district ordinance that was passed Feb. 16.

Jerry Witham and Debbie May addressed the board about a petition drive that’s under way to repeal the new ordinance.

Selectmen were notified last week that a lawyer was hired by a group of citizens seeking to repeal the ordinance.

Jerry Witham said 10 people raised money and sought legal advice on the issue. He said three petitions were being circulated.

“The board wouldn’t listen to us,” he said. “All we want is a fair vote, not a six-minute vote. I have an issue with not having a fair vote. I’m trying to get my point across and you’re not listening.”

May said she was not opposed to the water district; she was opposed to the process, which included holding the February special town meeting on a holiday weekend.

“I don’t like the word ‘repeal,’ but that’s the best way to do a repeal to get another vote,” she said.

She said she wanted a reasonable opportunity to vote.

“All the people who couldn’t think in seven seconds said, ‘What’s going on?’ That’s where my problem is,” she said.

Libby said more than 200 people raised their hands in favor of the water district project (on Feb. 16). “For a few nonregistered voters who raised their hand, it’s a nonissue,” he said.

Libby said a petition to repeal would have unintended consequences. “It does cause a division,” he said.

Selectman Nat Berry said, “I have listened to you carefully and I get that deep feeling you people are upset we didn’t vote the way you requested.”

Resident Dennis McCann addressed the board.

“I want to thank the citizens of New Gloucester who came out to vote,” he said. “Finally, we are going to get people safe drinking water. My family and I are behind this project 100 percent.”


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