Decision to set vote on West Bath leaving RSU 1 expected next month

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WEST BATH — The Board of Selectmen plans next month to set a date for the town to vote on whether to begin the process of withdrawing from Regional School Unit 1.

Selectmen discussed the process Monday, but opted to wait until their meeting of Wednesday, Nov. 13, to schedule the vote. It could possibly be held in January, Town Administrator Jonathan Davis said Tuesday.

Robert Brown, who started the petition, said Oct. 16 that the town certified 127 signatures, exceeding the required 102 (10 percent of the number of residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election).

If residents approve the referendum, negotiations would begin between the town and RSU 1, which also includes Bath, Arrowsic, Phippsburg and Woolwich. A negotiated withdrawal plan would then go back to West Bath for a second and final vote.

Brown has said local control of costs, school choice and preservation of the town’s school are issues driving the withdrawal movement.

Meanwhile, West Bath is suing RSU 1 to recover $1.9 million the town believes it overpaid in the first four years of the school district’s existence. The lawsuit, filed in October 2012, claims West Bath should have been assessed a total of $8.2 million over the course of four years, but instead paid $10.1 million. It claims RSU 1 owes West Bath $1.9 million, plus interest.

RSU 1 voters will decide Nov. 5 whether to fund a $5.2 million bond for improvements at several district schools. Of that sum, $69,000 would be spent at West Bath Elementary, for restoration of the building’s roof and to secure its front entrance, among other things.

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.