Petition challenge fails, Freeport-Brunswick dispatch consolidation goes on

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FREEPORT — A petition that would have overturned a Town Council decision to consolidate emergency dispatch services with Brunswick has failed to attract the required signatures.

Town Clerk Beverly Curry said only 446 residents signed the document by the May 26 deadline. The petition needed 626 signatures to succeed.

Town Manager Dale Olmstead said he expects to meet with Brunswick’s Town Manager Gary Brown on Thursday, June 3, to discuss moving forward with the consolidation process.

Dispatch consolidation is expected to save Freeport about $80,000.

Elaine Greene, the Freeport resident who helped spearhead the petition said she remains hopeful, despite the campaign’s failure.

“There is another petition that is circulating now that would change the charter and let the people decide to keep dispatch in Freeport 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” she said. “This second petition has no time element and we can go door to door, as opposed to having people sign at the Town Hall.”

The circulating petition is a citizen’s initiative to amend the Town Charter to prohibit the town from contracting with another entity for dispatch service. It would create a new section of the charter, requiring dispatch to be based in town. Greene said 788 signatures are needed.

“When, not if, these signatures are gathered, the issue will go to a referendum vote,” Greene said. “It is time for the people to decide. This petition will not change the Town Charter, it will give the people the right to vote on it.”

Getting the 626 signatures to overturn the council decision was “an uphill climb,” Greene said because under the Town Charter, residents have to sign in front of the town clerk at Town Hall. She said the process made it difficult for residents who were handicapped, sick or house-bound to participate.

Marianne McGettigan, a Freeport resident who helped to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1989, said the charter doesn’t provide accommodations for citizens with disabilities. She filed a complaint against the town with the Maine Human Rights Commission, and as someone with multiple sclerosis, said she would like the town to have an accommodation provision in the petition process.

Olmstead said the Town Council is scheduled to meet Tuesday, June 29, to discuss possible charter amendments.

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

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