Bath to hold special election to replace late councilor

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BATH — In light of the tragic death last week of one of its members, the City Council decided unanimously Wednesday to hold a special vote for her seat during next month’s general election.

The election will find a replacement to fill the final year of Ruthe Pagurko’s three-year term in Ward 7. Balloting will be held at Bath Middle School from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6. Elections are also being held for the three-year Ward 2, 3 and 4 council positions.

Nomination papers for Pagurko’s seat became available Oct. 4, and are due back by noon on Monday, Oct. 15.

A bouquet a flowers sat at Pagurko’s seat during Wednesday’s meeting, at which all members of the council read parts of a proclamation in her honor. In attendance were her daughters, other family members and her pastor, who also spoke on her behalf.

In other business, the council voted 4-3 to end discussions with HOMEtogether concerning that group’s proposed use of the city-owned nunnery building on Sheridan Road.

The city had intended to demolish the vacant structure, but Betty King of HOMEtogether had approached the council earlier this year about using the structure as a transient housing facility for up to 12 people. Room and board was to be provided in return for doing labor.

King said a meeting was held Sept. 19 to hear input from neighbors of the property, which is located near the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. She and several councilors heard concerns about the impact of the proposed development, the nature of the residents and effect on surrounding property values.

King pointed out that the facility would not be a shelter, but rather a place that houses people who had been screened by the Sheriff’s Department and interviewed to determine if they were a good match for the facility.

City Planning Director Andrew Deci said the proposal required two decisions: whether to turn the building over to HOMEtogether, and whether the proposed use of the nunnery was appropriate for the Commercial 2 district where it stands.

“I have not heard anyone in the city talk in the positive about (the proposal),” Councilor Mari Eosco said. “I think that it’s a very noble thing that you’re all working toward; I don’t think this location makes a lot of sense.”

Calling for a vote on the matter that evening, she said, “I’m afraid that we’re going to get so far through this process, and then this body is going to say no in the end, anyway. And I want to make sure that we’re using our time wisely.”

Councilor Bernie Wyman said he received several e-mails from people against the proposal. “I’m not opposed to this HOMEtogether, but I am opposed to it being in a residential neighborhood such as Sheridan Road,” he said.

Meadow Rue Merrill, who sponsored the agenda item, said she favored letting the Planning Board decide whether the location was suitable for that use.

“I don’t think we should cut off discussion now, when I feel like this is exactly what this process is for,” she said.

“We’re not voting to give them the building tonight … it is an opportunity for the people in the neighborhood … to speak up and ask questions. … We’re looking for information from the people who live there.”

Councilors Eosco, Wyman, Andy Winglass and Kyle Rogers voted to terminate the discussion, while Councilors Merrill, Sean Paulhus and Steve Brackett were opposed. As a result of the vote, the Planning Board is also expected to cease conversations on the topic.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.