Judge refuses to halt consolidation of dispatch by Freeport, Brunswick

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PORTLAND — A attempt to temporarily halt the transfer of Freeport emergency dispatch service to Brunswick was denied in Maine Superior Court, but a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the contract is continuing.

Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills on Nov. 17 denied a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction sought by residents Marianne McGettigan, Donald Rice and Judith Blanchard.

McGettigan this week said she was not surprised by the decision and will move forward with the lawsuit.

“We never expected to succeed with the TRO,” she said. “By the time it was filed, the town had already made the move.”

The plaintiffs and the town must wait for the court to set a date to hear arguments that the action to consolidate dispatch services with Brunswick was inconsistent with Freeport’s Town Charter and therefore void.

The Town Council voted April 6 to consolidate emergency dispatch services with Brunswick’s communication center. A petition to overturn the decision failed to gather enough signatures, and a second petition was circulated to keep emergency dispatch service in town.

The second petition gathered enough signatures to send the question to a referendum, but town officials deemed it invalid because a petitioners’ committee was not created and no affidavit was filed with the town clerk.

There was also no sworn statement that the petition would be circulated by five designated residents and petition blanks were not prepared and issued by the clerk’s office.

Freeport and Brunswick signed an agreement to consolidate emergency dispatch services on June 29 and the decision was approved by a Town Council order.

Under the Town Charter, the agreement had to be approved by an ordinance, so the council ratified the agreement in October and corrected the procedural errors.

McGettigan, Rice and Blanchard filed a civil lawsuit in September that challenged the validity of the council decision, since it was inconsistent with the Town Charter. They also claim that since the charter states that multi-year contracts must be approved by ordinance, a $122,500 payment made by Freeport to Brunswick is invalid.

According to court documents, the town argues that even though the change was enacted in a manner inconsistent with the Town Charter, it has been demonstrated that the new system is an improvement and that the harm to the town and the public would exceed damages to the plaintiffs if the transfer of dispatch services to Brunswick was reversed.

Town Manager Dale Olmstead said the town attorney will meet with the Town Council next week to discuss the case. At this point there is no date set for a court hearing. 

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

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