Freeport petition process revision heads to voters

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FREEPORT — The Town Council unanimously approved a charter amendment governing petitions, but it must be approved by voters in a referendum.

Councilors on Tuesday amended the Town Charter so residents no longer need to come to Town Hall to sign petitions. If approved by voters at the election on June 14, petitions could be circulated throughout the town.

Under the existing rules, petitions have to be signed at Town Hall in the presence of the town clerk.

“The charter amendment makes it easier to participate in the democratic process and for that reason, I approve it,” Councilor Lee Arris said.

The amendments were approved for three sections of the Town Charter that involve petitions: enactment of ordinance by initiative, overrule of council action, and recall.

In addition to sending the amendment to voters, councilors also decided it wouldn’t be practical to print the entire charter amendment on the ballot because it is 3 1/2 pages long. Instead, a summary will be printed alongside the question.

Councilor Kristina Egan noted that while the amendment will make it easier to get petition signatures, it also brings Freeport in line with state law.

Block grants

The council also unanimously endorsed two Community Development Block Grant applications, and local matches if the town receives the grants.

One of the grants would be for upgrades in Leon Gorman Park and would require a local match of up to about $34,500; it would be factored into the fiscal year 2017 budget. Upgrades include repairing bridges, constructing a natural play area for children, and creating a wildflower garden.

Town Planner Donna Larson said the town has gathered input from residents on the upgrades over the past few years. If the town receives the grant, construction could start in September.

The other grant would be used to construct sidewalks on Elm Street and Snow Road. It would require a local match of nearly $107,000, which would be part of next year’s budget. Larson said the town has identified the need for sidewalks on the two roads for years, but has been denied several grants.

Larson said the sidewalks are needed because students traveling to and from school need a safe place to walk. She said they now walk in the roads.

According to Larson, sidewalks are a low priority for the CDBG program, but she hopes the safety of students will strengthen the town’s application.

The CDBG program is administered by the state Department of Economic and Community Development Office of Community Development. It allocates funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.