Selectmen to seek sewer revote next June


By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Bridgton Selectmen wasted no time Tuesday in voting to hold a revote on the failed sewer ordinance revisions at the June 2016 Town Meeting.

The fact that voters on Nov. 3 rejected the revisions by a vote of 575 to 424 was seen by selectmen not as a mandate against changing the payment rate structure, but the result of false and misleading information contained in a last-minute media campaign in The Bridgton News.

Selectman Bob McHatton said during Selectmen Concerns that a half-page ad that the Bridgton Sewer Users Group ran in the News less than a week before the Nov. 3 referendum “blindsided the board, because it didn’t allow us to rebut” the charges being made, particularly the statement that “The proposed new sewer system will cost over $23,000,000.”

McHatton said he could hardly blame voters for rejecting the ordinance after seeing such a huge number presented as if it were fact. The ad, along with an article that detailed the fears and questions of opponents, was, McHatton said, “I won’t say lies, but it was misinformation about the facts.”

The need for sewer ordinance revisions and the need for a new sewer system are completely separate issues, he said, and nothing at all has been decided about a new sewer system, least of all what cost might be involved.

McHatton also felt that a fine effort was made to educate voters about the need to change the system’s current rate structure to free up unused sewer allocation and make the payment structure fairer for everyone. “They did a fine job of bringing it to the board, as far as I’m concerned,” McHatton said of the Wastewater Committee and the town’s sewer engineering firm, Woodard & Curran.

“I really don’t understand where they’re coming from or why they voted why they did,” McHatton said of those leading the “no” vote effort. “In my opinion, they have done nothing I would consider in the best interests of the town.”

Selectman Paul Hoyt seconded McHatton’s motion for a revote. The ordinance revisions and expanding the system are “absolutely separate topics — one does not tie in with the other,” Hoyt said. If and when the board decides to consider expanding the sewer system, “That will be a whole separate discussion, a separate topic and separate vote.”

Selectman Chairman Bernie King was quick to agree with McHatton’s view that the best solution would be to simply resubmit the same ordinance revisions for voter approval next June. Like most board members, King believes the board needs to make a concentrated effort to educate residents on the new ordinance.

In his letter to the editor in this week's print edition, King had harsh words for the tactics used by the Bridgton Sewer Users Group, accusing its members of “pulling the wool over the voters’ eyes in convincing them that the vote was for expanding the sewer and it was going to cost $23 million.” He said the group of Main Street property owners and businessmen “are basically holding other users or new users hostage” by holding on to unused allocations they purchased even when it means not allowing anyone else to be allowed to flow into the system.

“This seems to me to be very selfish on their part,” said King.


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