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Petition drive aims to keep emergency dispatch in Freeport

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Petition drive aims to keep emergency dispatch in Freeport

FREEPORT — Two days after the Town Council approved consolidation of emergency dispatch with Brunswick, a petition drive was launched to overrule the council and keep the service in town.

"I have learned to never say never," said School Street resident Elaine Greene, who is spearheading the petition drive. "If people really want what they say they wanted, they now have a chance to come forward. It's in their hands now."

On April 6, the Town Council voted 5-2 to consolidate dispatch with Brunswick. The decision would save Freeport $80,000 the first year, and about $100,000 each year after.

Councilor Eric Pandora voted against consolidation, and also signed the petition to overrule the council decision.

"It's the people's right to bring the issue forward," Pandora said. "We as a council should do everything we can to let the people's voice be heard."

Councilor Joe Migliaccio, who also voted against dispatch consolidation, said the council's lack of formal due diligence helped formulate his decision. He said he also wants the council to view the contract with Brunswick before the Town Manager signs the agreement.

Migliaccio said he is also wary that with one year's notice, Brunswick can back out of the agreement without cause.

The Town Charter requires residents to go to Town Hall to sign any petition to overrule the council.

Migliaccio said that makes it impossible for the elderly, sick and house-bound to be heard.

"The citizens who cannot participate in this petition are the ones most effected by this decision," he said. "There is a flaw in the charter that should be corrected and put out to vote."

The citizen petition is a request to hold a referendum to overrule the council's decision. Under the Town Charter, residents have 30 business days after the council decision to sign the petition.

It must be signed in the presence of the town clerk or deputy clerk at the Town Hall. During those 30 days, the Town Hall must be open two Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and four nights until 8 p.m.

Town Clerk Beverly Curry said the first Saturday was April 10. There was a steady stream of residents to sign the petition, Curry said, and as of Monday, April 12, about 85 signatures were gathered.

The last day to sign the petition is May 27, Curry said, and in order to trigger a referendum, the petition must have at least 626 valid signatures, or 10 percent of the town's registered voters.

Residents can also vote Saturday, April 24, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and until 8 p.m. every Tuesday in May.

If enough signatures are certified, Curry said the council will hold a public hearing to set the time and place of the referendum.

Greene said she is pleased to be able to be a part of a process that gives people a voice.

"This petition entitles people to vote in a referendum," she said. "We needed this step, and now the decision is in the hands of the people."

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net