Selectboard Chairperson Brenda Gross, consultant Scott Cole, and Town Clerk Kelly Harrington address Hanover residents and answer questions about the process of deorganizing the town Julie Reiff

HANOVER — The Hanover Board of Selectmen held an informational meeting Tuesday, Sep. 13, under the Town Pavilion for residents “to ask questions about Hanover possibly going unorganized.” Scott Cole, served as moderator.

Residents, and a few seasonal property owners filled the tent adjacent to the town pavilion. Anticipating a strong turnout, people walked across the parking lot with camp chairs. Cars were parked out on Route 2.

According to the State of Maine, unorganized territory (UT) is that area that has no local, incorporated municipal government. There are only 10 other states that have Unorganized Territories: Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, and South Dakota.

Town resident Jack Kuchta asked for a clarification at the start of the meeting. He was concerned that the select board was initiating the discussion and asked how it came about, since he had not heard unorganization discussed at any prior public meeting. He acknowledged that he was the one who mailed a postcard to residents to make sure people knew about the meeting.

Selectman Ed Kennett responded, saying, “We got to this point looking at the budget for the last few years. The school budget is our biggest expense. We asked how can we fix this?” He explained that they spoke with people in Rumford, Bethel, and at the state level to find out what alternatives are,” Kennett said. “Honestly, I’d prefer it if a petition called for it. It should not be three people pushing this forward.”

“The reason we did this,” Selectboard Chairperson Brenda Lee Gross agreed, “is because we keep looking at the school budget. We were lucky the last few years; the school budget really didn’t go up. Everybody knows, it was Covid and we were getting all this money from the Feds. Well, that’s kind of stop. I know in my heart, next year, our budget is going to go up.” Food, fuel, everything have all increased, she noted.


“I’ve been on the select board for 38 years,” Gross said, “and I’ve never seen this many people at any meeting. So this is really great.You know what, we all want to stay here in this town. We don’t want our taxes to continue to rise. There are lots of unknowns for us, and we just don’t want to see our taxes go up two or three mils in one year and continue to go up and go up to the point where some of us may not be able to live here anymore. So that’s why we started looking at this. We just want to stay in this town, because we know it’s a great town. We know that we will lose Kelly and Ellie and the rest of us on the board, but we’re willing to do that to stay in our homes.”

Fellow select board member Frank Morrison said, “With the present budget, $1,436 a day goes just for the school budget – every day. I can’t stay silent. I can’t ignore that kind of cost. With our regular budget at $220,000 for a whole year for everything. I’m just trying to be prudent. It’s not gonna be free (if the town goes unorganized,) but by God there are substantial savings. Trying to keep budget down; that’s my job. We’ve got to control costs.”

One woman replied, “If I’m going to spend money on anything, I want it to be the kids.” Several others in the audience voiced agreement. “Education is really important,” she concluded, at which point she got a round of applause.

Town Clerk Kelly Harrington pointed out that 76 percent of the tax bill goes to the school and 24 percent to pay for everything else.

“This year it’s going to fix Mill Hill,” Harrington said, to another round of applause. She also pointed to the big dumpster and explained that the back porch had to be removed from the town office because it was infested with mice. She told of a recent encounter with a flying squirrel in the office toilet, eyes looking up at her. “There are a lot of things that need to be fixed up,” she said.

A discussion of mil rates followed. Harrington reminded people that the local rate is currently 14.75. Several attendees stated that Albany, which is unorganized has a rate of 8.73. Cole admitted that even if the mil rate goes down, there would likely be a property re-assessment.


“What’s attractive in unorganizing,” Cole said, is that the cost of educating kids in Unorganized Territories is divided over the UT tax base statewide. What’s tempting is that the school portion of the tax is likely to go down. That’s one thing I’m sure of.”

Other attendees wanted to know what would happen to local governance. Cole explained that the select board, planning board, etc., would be dissolved, and town property would be turned over to the state and might be sold or liquidated, depending on the plan that is put forth to the legislature.

“Someone used the expression ‘ward of the state,’” Cole said. “And there’s some truth to that. Local decisions would now be at the purview of the county commissioner.”

He pointed out that some things would not change. Hanover doesn’t have a fire department or a road department, for instance, so those would likely be done the same way they are now.

“One con,” Cole said about deorganizing, “is that you don’t get to put a local touch on anything anymore.”

Jack Kuchta then asked if local noise or cannabis ordinances would still apply. Cole explained that most local ordinances like that would be dissolved but that state laws would still apply of course.


People wondered what the state looked at when considering a town’s plan for deorganizing. Cole explained that they would likely consider that state of the roads and what the immediate burdens might be. “The better shape you’re in, they like you more,” he added.

“It’s a long process,” Cole admitted and said there seemed to be some bias at the state level against deorganizing. He said one official told him that Hanover has too much money and that the state legislature would never approve it.

Cole was quick to point out that he was neither a proponent or an opponent of deorganization, but was hired by the town as a consultant (explaining when asked, that he is being paid $50 an hour with no benefits).

There was some discussion of the new statute for seniors freezing their taxes if they’ve been Maine residents for 10 years. Deorganization would not affect that, Cole said.

Tuesday’s meeting was only informational, and by law, no vote could be held. If the process moves forward, a town meeting is scheduled, by petition of arrangement by the select board, where this topic is the only agenda item. There was some discussion of whether or not a petition is required or if it is sufficient for the select board to call the meeting. Cole said there were differing interpretations of the statute.

If a majority of residents (voters registered in Hanover) vote to move the process forward at that meeting, a committee of five members is elected (who do not have to be present at the meeting).


That committee would work with state officials to draft a plan for deorganization, addressing issues like care for the local cemetery, voting locations, or where residents would obtain fishing or hunting licenses or register their cars.

Once the plan is drafted, it is put before the town for another vote, this time with more questions answered. If residents vote to proceed, the plan is presented to the state legislature. Realistically, Cole said, that process could take two or three years. If the legislature agrees, then the issue comes back to the town for a final vote.

“No matter how it comes to be,” Cole said, “at the end of the day, it will still be the town’s decision.”

“I think we should consider where we’ll be in two years if the legislature says ‘No,’” commented Dick Stratton, who was a town selectman for 10 years. “Where will we be then as a community?”

Hanover was incorporated in February 1843. According to Oxford County records, between 1919 and 1944 three towns and one plantation were dissolved, reverting to unorganized territories: Albany, Mason, Grafton, and Milton Plantation. The entire area of the county north of Upton, Grafton, Newry and Andover has never been incorporated. Lincoln Plantation and Magalloway Plantation, which lie directly north of Upton along the New Hampshire border, are the only areas in this region which have even been formally organized into plantations. The rest of the area is for the most part quite remote, and has never had any significant population on more than a transitory basis.

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