PORTLAND — Before it runs out of enough members to conduct business, the Peaks Island Council is exploring whether Peaks can become a semi-autonomous village corporation.
The last holdout on the council is quitting, making it unlikely the PIC will exist after the Nov. 2 election.
PIC Chairman Michael Richards said in an Aug. 2 e-mail to The Forecaster that he is resigning, effective in November. His decision follows three other members of the seven-member council who previously said they will end their terms prematurely.
Additionally, three councilors up for re-election this November have decided not to run.
Like the other councilors, Richards said he has been frustrated by a lack of response from the city on requests and recommendations from the PIC, which is an advisory board to the City Council.
“Nobody wants to beat their head against a wall,” Richards said.
The PIC was created in 2007, following an unsuccessful bid by island residents to secede from Portland. Although the Legislature voted against allowing the secession, it ordered the city to take steps to improve its relationship with Peaks. The PIC was one step towards doing that.
Richards said the city’s decision earlier this year to reduce police coverage on the island from two officers to one led to the PIC exodus. The council had asked the city to increase its public safety presence on the island, Richards said.
He also disputed City Councilor Kevin Donoghue’s claim that Donoghue has not heard from the PIC about particular concerns, pointing out that Donoghue is copied on all letters and e-mails from the PIC. Donoghue’s district includes Peaks Island.
At this point, the city is waiting to see if any islanders return nomination papers to run for one of the three seats on the ballot this November. Papers are due back Aug. 23, and so far just one resident has taken out papers.
The other four seats opening up are not on the ballot because the resignations came too late.
Even if three councilors are elected, four councilors are required for a quorum. Without a quorum, the council cannot vote on anything.
Portland’s island liaison, Mike Murray, said the city is trying to figure out what its options are.
“We are going to see what happens over the next couple of weeks,” Murray said.
City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said this week that the city is disappointed by the turn of events on Peaks, but will continue to provide services to islanders. She said island concerns should be brought to Murray’s attention.
“The mayor and city manager are discussing options,” she added.
The Peaks Island Council, meanwhile, is still meeting and is exploring the idea of approaching the city with a proposal for a village corporation.
A village corporation would have some decision-making authority over the island, and receive a portion of Peaks Island tax revenues to run some services, including the island school and public safety.
Richards said the council has just started to scratch the surface on how a corporation would work, and what specific services it would control.
Setting up a village corporation would be a lengthy process. The city and the legislature would have to approve the arrangement.
Clegg said the city would have to determine if a majority of islanders are even in favor of such a move.
Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or firstname.lastname@example.org