Freeport council sets Sept. 14 decision on charter amendments

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FREEPORT — The Town Council will vote Sept. 14 on whether to send proposed Town Charter amendments to voters on Nov. 2.

The amendment discussions became necessary after a council decision to consolidate dispatch services with Brunswick’s communication center prompted a group of residents to file a petition to overturn the decision.

Under the existing Charter, a petition to overturn a council decision has to be signed in the presence of the town clerk or deputy clerk at the clerk’s office. Some residents said that effectively prevents housebound residents from participating.

In response, resident Marianne McGettigan filed a complaint against the town with the Maine Human Rights Commission, and another petition was circulated that would prohibit Freeport from contracting with another entity for dispatch and would require dispatch to be based in town 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The petitions failed, but the council continued discussions to update and amend the Charter.

In a workshop on Tuesday, Sept. 7, the council discussed what amendments would go to the voters, and held a public hearing at its regular meeting following the workshop.

Town Attorney Geoff Hole previously presented the council with two language options for petition regulations, recall procedures and overruling council actions.

The first option would still require residents to sign petitions in the presence of the town clerk, but would allow the clerk to deliver the petitions, ordinances or resolves to a resident incapable of getting to Town Hall.

The second option, based on Councilor Joe Migliaccio’s suggestion, would allow residents to circulate a petition and gather signatures without being in the town clerk’s presence. Each page of the petition would have an affidavit attached, indicating the validity of the petition language and the circulator’s ability to circulate the papers.

In addition, Councilor Eric Pandora submitted suggested language that would create reasonable accommodation for a housebound resident to designate a family member or third party to deliver an ordinance, copy of a petition, petition signature page, or an order or resolve with an affidavit so that the town clerk or deputy town clerk would not have to visit the resident’s home.

Councilors supported the first option, while incorporating Pandora’s language.

Hole said he will draft amendment language and present it to the council prior to the final vote next Tuesday.

Another Charter amendment proposal discussed was the removal of language that prohibits a pay-per-bag trash disposal system.

But, by a straw vote of 5-2, with Chairman Bill Mudloon and Councilor Jim Cassida dissenting, councilors decided to keep the provision. Councilors in favor of leaving the provision in the Charter said its removal should be discussed in the future, but the timing is not right to put it on the November ballot.

Cassida said the removal of the provision would not endorse a pay-per-bag system, but the other five councilors said it is not the time to move forward.

“I agree that over the next year we should look at the whole concept of pay-per-bag and recycling, but not now,” Migliaccio said.

Councilors also favored raising the threshold from $75,000 to $100,000 for a single capital improvement that would require voter approval at a special or regular election. They also agreed to increase the amount of capital improvements to be financed by bonds or notes exceeding $100,000 from the original $50,000.

Town Manager Dale Olmstead said the original numbers had been in place since 1976.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or