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Brunswick council to hear comments on polling place consolidation

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Brunswick council to hear comments on polling place consolidation

BRUNSWICK — The Town Council will hold a public hearing on a proposed polling place consolidation plan when it meets Monday, July 12.

The plan would reduce the town's six polling locations to one at Brunswick Junior High School. 

Proposals for polling consolidation have come up several times in the last four years. In the past, the council has spurned the idea.

But recently, several councilors have appeared willing to consolidate, saying that it could save the town money.

According to a memo from Town Clerk Fran Smith, consolidating the polls would save the town between $7,400 and $7,800 per election.

Councilor Ben Tucker recently said he would oppose the measure because it discourages voter participation and produces little economic benefit.

Smith, meanwhile, noted the recent shift toward increased absentee voting. During the 2008 presidential election, more than 40 percent of Brunswick voters cast absentee ballots.

Smith said more staff time is required to accommodate absentee voters, while rules governing elections require the town to maintain adequate poll staffing "even as Election Day attendance dwindles."

Smith highlighted several potential drawbacks to consolidation, including increased driving distance for some voters, particularly for those in Districts 1 and 5, which are in east Brunswick near Cook's Corner.

Additionally, some councilors have said consolidation could create a campaign circus outside a single polling place: all four of the town's seats in the Legislature are on the ballot in November, along with six seats on the School Board and Town Council.

According to Smith, several municipalities the size of Brunswick have consolidated polling places, including Bangor, Auburn, Augusta and Saco.

She said Brunswick now has more polling places than any other town in the state.

The council will also take public comments on proposed changes to peer review requirements for development projects. The changes stem from a council decision to reduce staff, which led to a realignment of remaining staff duties.

The changes will essentially require a development project applicant to produce an independent review of project impacts if requested by the Planning Board or similar review entity.

In the past, peer reviews were paid for by the developer only by consent The review would also be selected by the town board considering the development application.

The Town Council will also:

• Consider setting a public hearing on the $105,000 purchase of three vehicles for the Fire Department. The purchase is included in the town's recently adopted Capital Improvement Program.

• Consider restricting parking on Coffin Street. According to Smith, the proposed changes would only prohibit parking on the short stretch of Coffin between Longfellow Avenue and Grove Street Extension.

The draft agenda for the July 12 meeting does not include announcements about a state application for a medicinal marijuana dispensary at 4 Turner St.

According to paperwork provided by the state Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services, Derek Brock of Kittery has applied to establish Primary Organic Therapy at a property town records show is owned by William and Heather Randall.

Brock has also applied for a clinic at 139 State Road in Kittery, his home address.

The recently enacted marijuana dispensary law allows just one dispensary in each of eight Division of Health and Human Services districts. Brunswick is in the same district as Portland, which is considered the leading candidate to land a dispensary. 

DLRS was expected announce which applicants would be allowed to set-up dispensaries on Friday, July 9.

Town Manager Gary Brown said Wednesday that town officials have not discussed a moratorium on marijuana clinics, unlike several other communities.

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or smistler@theforecaster.net

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