Panel to update Peaks Island residents on secession from Portland

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PEAKS ISLAND — The Peaks Island Independence Committee on Sunday will meet with residents about the latest effort to secede from the city of Portland.

PIIC member Rand Gee said the meeting will update residents on the status of a secession bill that has been submitted to the state Legislature by Rep. Windol C. Weaver, R-York.

That bill is still being reviewed by the Legislature’s Office of the Revisor of Statutes, which conducts legal reviews of submitted bills before they are assigned to committees.

Weaver could not be reached on Tuesday to talk about the bill he submitted. Gee said secession backers could not find a Portland representative to sponsor the bill.

Gee, 66, who moved to Peaks Island six months ago from Rochester, N.Y., said the bill submitted to the Legislature is largely the same one that was submitted for the island’s unsuccessful independence bid in 2007.

That bill, however, had now-outdated information about how much money it would take to run a town without support from the city.

In 2007, secession proponents said the independent town would generate about $5 million in tax revenue and carry annual operating expenses of more than $3 million.

Gee said the financial document currently being drafted is not a final budget for an independent Peaks Island; it is only meant to show legislators that an independent town is viable.

The viability budget would have to maintain several state-mandated and essential services, like infrastructure support, trash disposal and sewage handling.

Gee said it will also include services the town wants to maintain, including the school, library, community center and police and emergency services.

“We’re looking at all of those numbers again,” Gee said.

There continues to be debate about whether islanders need to restart the whole secession process, Gee said. Proponents point to the last referendum to secede, as well as a recent straw poll of about 200 residents as public support for secession.

“It’s not starting over,” he said. “It’s updating those (financial) numbers.”

When and if the bill is cleared by the revisor’s office, it will go before the Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government, which would issue a recommendation to the full Legislature after a series of public hearings.

Although the committee issued a 7-5 recommendation against the 2007 secession bill, Gee said supporters are confident the new bill would be approved by the now Republican-led Legislature.

Meanwhile, Gee said more islanders are concerned by recent city actions to reduce services, including the number of police officers on the island and the withdrawal of $45,000 in funding for the Children’s Workshop.

“We ‘re feeling pretty good about (secession),” he said. “We continue to get more people than not telling us to drive this forward.”

If a secession bill is passed, the island could start operating as an independent town on July 1, 2012, Gee said.

Sunday’s meeting will take place from 1-3 p.m. at the Peaks Island Community Center.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or