Bruce Powell of Hanover casts his ballot Tuesday on whether to pursue deorganizing town government. Residents met at the Gem Theater in Bethel because the Hanover Town Office is overrun by squirrels and mice, Town Clerk Kelly Harrington said. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

BETHEL — Residents of Hanover voted 51-14 Tuesday not to pursue handing over town governance to the state, after hearing the potential impacts of becoming an unorganized territory.

“Over the last 12 years, the (tax) rate has increased 77%,” Selectman Frank Morrison told voters. “And the main issue has always been the cost of the school. Two years ago in our budget, we had an increase in the (Regional School Unit 10 assessment) of $100,524. The next year, we got an increase of only $3,220. It bounces up and down like a basketball. We don’t know what to do. We don’t know how to control it.”

“It’s a big step to go to the next step,” he said, “but I think we owe it to ourselves,” he said.

Nancy Bodine, the financial administrator for Maine’s unorganized territories, said the big downside of deorganizing would be losing local authority and control of services. Authority would then rest with the state Legislature, which would become the governing body.

The process could take two to three years.

Bodine said the Legislature would also be looking for the reason for deorganizing, which usually is a decreasing population or aging to the point where resources are not available with the skills and experience to run the town.


According to the U.S. Census for 2010 and 2020, Hanover’s population rose from 238 to 286.

“It’s a 20% increase. That is something that would kind of raise a flag,” Bodine said. “This is a town that’s growing.”

RSU 10 board Chairman Greg Buccina said construction of the K-8 school in Mexico to replace three old schools in Rumford and Mexico is projected to save the district $600,000 a year.

Brenda Gross, chairperson of the Hanover Board of Selectmen, said she would like to see the town move ahead with deorganizing because she is worried young people are not going to be able to continue living in Hanover if the tax rate continues to increase.

Selectman Jim Barker said, “Hanover is a town and I would personally not like to see it deorganize. At the same time, I’m more than willing to listen to opinions and to follow through the process as best we can, if that’s what the citizens decide.”

Former Oxford County Administrator Scott Cole, moderator of Tuesday’s meeting and consultant for Hanover’s deorganizing effort, said if the town chose to move forward with deorganizing there were be  90 days to develop a deorganization plan by a five-member committee selected by the town. Next would be a public hearing and a second vote by residents in the spring, which would be another chance for the town to stop the process.

Oxford County Commissioner Dave Duguay, who represents Hanover, said there are 20 unorganized townships in the county and there has been just one deorganization in the past 25 years, namely, Magalloway.

Other officials at Tuesday’s meeting were: members of the State Commission on Municipal Deorganization, which supports agencies and county services provided in the 429 townships in 12 counties; Rick Colpitts, former Maine School Administrative District 17 superintendent; Ben Gotsoe,  Maine Land Use Planning Commission, which serves as planning board and code enforcement for Maine’s unorganized territories; Tony Carter, who heads up the county’s effort for unorganized territory services; and Don Durrah, Oxford County administrator.

Tuesday’s meeting was held at the Gem Theater in Bethel because the Hanover Town Office has been overrun with squirrels and mice, Town Clerk Kelly Harrington said.

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