Freeport council taps Werner, DeGrandpre for RSU 5 withdrawal panel

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FREEPORT — The town’s Regional School Unit 5 withdrawal committee began to take shape at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting. 

The council unanimously appointed at-large Councilor Rich DeGrandpre, whose term of office expires in November, as its representative on the committee. DeGrandpre is the owner of R&D Automotive and has been a councilor for 12 years.

It also unanimously appointed Kate Werner as the representative from the petitioning committee, Moving Freeport Forward.

“This is like a divorce,” DeGrandpre said. “It’s the kids that take it the hardest at the end of the day. So I think it’s important that we get the right answer going forward. Not the quick answer, or the popular answer, but the right answer.”

Werner, who holds a law degree, but is not currently practicing, declined to comment on her appointment Tuesday. In an October letter to the editor of The Forecaster, she expressed support for leaving the RSU.

“In forming RSU 5, we were falsely promised benefits that never came and were threatened with fines that never materialized,” Werner wrote. “We can exit RSU 5, give our towns back local control and budget clarity, and then work as equals to provide the best education for our children.”

The RSU board is scheduled to appoint a committee member from its own ranks at a meeting on Wednesday evening.

The fourth and final member of the committee, as required by state law, will be a citizen-at-large appointed by the Town Council. Four residents have applied for the position:

• Frederick Palmer, a retiree and former council chairman who served on the regional planning committee during the RSU consolidation process.

• John Paterson, a retired attorney and former councilor and School Committee member.

• Dennis King, a hospital chief executive with school board experience.

• And Jane Bradley, a retired district court judge and education advocate.

Bradley is the mother of Councilor Sarah Tracy, who said Tuesday she would not participate in the appointment deliberations.

The council has scheduled a special meeting for Jan. 14 at 7:30 p.m. to interview the candidates, who will be asked to outline their qualifications, experience and desire to serve. (That meeting will follow a previously scheduled workshop, set for 6:30 p.m., featuring a presentation on the invasive green crabs that have plagued Maine’s coastal waters and seafood harvests in recent years.)

Councilors said they will look for an open-minded candidate with strong communication skills and without conflicts of interest, who will bring diversity to the withdrawal committee.

“This is probably one of the most important appointments this council will make over the next couple years,” Tracy said.

Freeport residents on Dec. 17 voted 953-768 to withdraw from RSU 5, which also includes the towns of Durham and Pownal. The withdrawal committee, which is required to hold its first meeting by Jan. 31, will negotiate a withdrawal agreement that must be approved by the state Department of Education. It will then go back to Freeport voters in another referendum before the town can officially withdraw.

In other business Tuesday, the council unanimously authorized spending $60,000 for the purchase of a new sidewalk clearing machine and $35,000 to replace the Bartol Library roof.

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or btwist@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @brendantwist.

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