Concerns raised over copied petition signatures

QUICK TO RESPOND — Resident Mark Lopez, right, was quick to rebut concerns raised at Tuesday’s Bridgton Selectmen’s meeting that photocopied signatures on a citizens’ petition concerning the Town Hall were not valid. Studying the signatures is Selectmen Chairman Bernie King, while Town Secretary Samantha Eichols looks on. Selectmen decided to allow the signatures, and sent the petition to be decided by voters in June. The petition would freeze all spending on Town Hall repairs until the total costs are known, then require voter approval of those costs. (Geraghty Photo)  Voters face lengthy referendum ballot June 9 By Gail Geraghty Staff Writer Bridgton Selectmen have finalized a comparatively lengthy list of referendum questions that voters will decide by secret ballot on Tuesday, June 9, the day before the Town Meeting. Several are the result of a citizens’ petition, and others are ordinance revisions by the Planning Board. What follows are summaries of each question, along with comments made at Tuesday’s Selectmen’s meeting.  Via Citizen Petition • Town Hall Spending — Approval of this question seeking cost estimates on both the exterior and interior of the Town Hall would freeze spending until total costs are known and approved by voters (See story, page 1)  • Lake Region Bus Service — Submitted last December, this petition would bring the Regional Transportation Program’s bus service to Bridgton by approving a one-cent increase on the mil rate, estimated to be around $10,000.  • Sewer Ordinance — Approval would exempt all sewer allocations bought before July 1, 2014 from any and all amendments to the Sewer Ordinance, and would allow the exempted users to pay for only the portion of their total allocation that they use. Selectmen believe passage would stymie development in the downtown by preventing the town from buying back unused allocations in order to add more users to the system. The petition was brought forward by Tom Kennedy and others who are challenging changes to the sewer ordinance.  Via Planning Board • Tower Ordinance — Approval would further define and clarify requirements that telecommunication towers must meet, such as distance from abutters.  • Site Plan Review Ordinance — Approval would add a section regulating the location and operation of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries. • Sign Ordinance — Approval would further define requirements for flashing signs, among other housekeeping changes.  • Shoreland Zoning Ordinance — Approval of revisions that ensure compliance with state requirements and other housekeeping changes.  • Establishment of Safe Zones Ordinance — Approval would give additional definition to existing ordinance and compliance with language on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries.  Not all proposed referendum questions were approved for the June 9 ballot. Selectmen decided not to send along a proposal to make Home Run Road a town road, because as yet the Memorandum of Understanding has not been signed with the Home Run Road Abutters Group. The BRAG athletic field lies at the end of the road, which connects with Sandy Creek Road.  The board also decided not to seek referendum approval to add $9,000 to the budget for the Bridgton Library, as was suggested at the last meeting by Selectman Bob McHatton. Instead, the $9,000 will be added to the Bridgton Library budget as a line item in the budget that voters will decide at the Town Meeting on Wednesday, June 10.

QUICK TO RESPOND — Resident Mark Lopez, right, was quick to rebut concerns raised at Tuesday’s Bridgton Selectmen’s meeting that photocopied signatures on a citizens’ petition concerning the Town Hall were not valid. Studying the signatures is Selectmen Chairman Bernie King, while Town Secretary Samantha Eichols looks on. Selectmen decided to allow the signatures, and sent the petition to be decided by voters in June. The petition would freeze all spending on Town Hall repairs until the total costs are known, then require voter approval of those costs. (Geraghty Photo)
Voters face lengthy referendum ballot June 9

Bridgton Selectmen have finalized a comparatively lengthy list of referendum questions that voters will decide by secret ballot on Tuesday, June 9, the day before the Town Meeting. Several are the result of a citizens’ petition, and others are ordinance revisions by the Planning Board. What follows are summaries of each question, along with comments made at Tuesday’s Selectmen’s meeting.
Via Citizen Petition
• Town Hall Spending — Approval of this question seeking cost estimates on both the exterior and interior of the Town Hall would freeze spending until total costs are known and approved by voters (See story, page 1)
• Lake Region Bus Service — Submitted last December, this petition would bring the Regional Transportation Program’s bus service to Bridgton by approving a one-cent increase on the mil rate, estimated to be around $10,000.
• Sewer Ordinance — Approval would exempt all sewer allocations bought before July 1, 2014 from any and all amendments to the Sewer Ordinance, and would allow the exempted users to pay for only the portion of their total allocation that they use. Selectmen believe passage would stymie development in the downtown by preventing the town from buying back unused allocations in order to add more users to the system. The petition was brought forward by Tom Kennedy and others who are challenging changes to the sewer ordinance.
Via Planning Board
• Tower Ordinance — Approval would further define and clarify requirements that telecommunication towers must meet, such as distance from abuttors.
• Site Plan Review Ordinance — Approval would add a section regulating the location and operation of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries.
• Sign Ordinance — Approval would further define requirements for flashing signs, among other housekeeping changes.
• Shoreland Zoning Ordinance — Approval of revisions that ensure compliance with state requirements and other housekeeping changes.
• Establishment of Safe Zones Ordinance — Approval would give additional definition to existing ordinance and compliance with language on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries.
Not all proposed referendum questions were approved for the June 9 ballot. Selectmen decided not to send along a proposal to make Home Run Road a town road, because as yet the Memorandum of Understanding has not been signed with the Home Run Road Abuttors Group. The BRAG athletic field lies at the end of the road, which connects with Sandy Creek Road.
The board also decided not to seek referendum approval to add $9,000 to the budget for the Bridgton Library, as was suggested at the last meeting by Selectman Bob McHatton. Instead, the $9,000 will be added to the Bridgton Library budget as a line item in the budget that voters will decide at the Town Meeting on Wednesday, June 10.

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Resident Mark Lopez was on his feet Tuesday before Bridgton Selectmen could even begin considering whether photocopied signatures rendered a Town Hall citizens’ petition invalid.

When it came time Tuesday for the board to order the petition’s placement for a referendum vote in June, Chairman Bernie King said an issue had arisen, in the form of a memo from Town Clerk Laurie Chadbourne. King read the memo, in which Chadbourne cautioned the board that accepting a petition with photocopied signatures would violate the Maine State Constitution.

At issue were 33 signatures gathered by resident Chuck Renneker and submitted as photocopies. The photocopied signatures, if ruled invalid, would leave the petition just shy of the 239 signatures, or 10% of total voters, required for validation of a citizen’s petition.

Lopez called those numbers “convenient,” given the board’s decision at their previous meeting to move forward with Phase I of the stabilization project, for which around $300,000 received voter approval last June. The petition backed by both men calls for a freeze on spending any money to repair the Town Hall until the cost of both interior and exterior repairs are known and voters approve those costs in a secret ballot vote.

“I can’t even believe you guys are going to go here,” Lopez told the board. “Nowhere does it say that the original signatures must be submitted.” Referring to Renneker, who was in the audience, Lopez said, “You have the guy standing right here who can attest those were original signatures.”

Renneker said he gathered the signatures in his Hio Ridge neighborhood, and that most of them were the same names that were on an earlier petition regarding the Hio Ridge cell phone tower.

“This stinks,” said Lopez. “If this goes forward we can submit another petition and have it notarized.”

Board member Bob McHatton said he was unaware the petition had been called into question, but that its legality needed to be firmly established.

“This is a very important issue,” McHatton said. “Is it or isn’t it legal? Do we need the town attorney to verify this?”

It was pointed out, however, that Tuesday’s meeting was the deadline for finalizing all referendum questions.

With emotions running high, the board called a 10-minute recess. When they returned, Selectmen immediately voted to place the question on the June referendum ballot.

Selectman Paul Hoyt said the board was only exercising due diligence in response to a concern raised by the person responsible for validating petition signatures. “That’s all we’re doing here,” he said.

Town Manager Bob Peabody added, “This wasn’t done with any evil thoughts in mind…that’s what we pay (Chadbourne) to do.”

 

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