Talmadge, Waite vote down consolidation effort

Posted June 10, 2010, at 1:16 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:33 a.m.

Two of 16 towns decided against joining the Eastern Maine Area School Systems, an effort to comply with a state law requiring school consolidation by combining four Penobscot and Washington County school districts, officials said Wednesday.

Voters in Talmadge and Waite voted 8-6 and 14-11, respectively, against joining EMASS and will not be a part of it. The other communities of the East Range II Community School District, SAD 30 and Unions 107 and 110 voted to join the alternative organizational structure, or AOS, results show.

Union 107 Superintendent Barry McLaughlin said the absence of Talmadge, which had a population of 70 people according to the 2000 census, and Waite, which had 105 residents counted in the same census, won’t interfere with the formation of the AOS.

The Waite and Talmadge school committee chairwomen, Paula Phelps and Robin Follette, respectively, said they are considering convening special town meetings to urge residents to join EMASS.

“We do have to do something. We can’t afford the fines and other expenses with not going in an AOS,” said Follette Wednesday of residents of Talmadge.

Phelps said Waite residents “just didn’t get the right information. I have talked to some people and we are just trying to come up with a solution. We are not sure what to do.”

Talmadge would avoid a $1,400 fine by joining EMASS. Waite would avoid a $3,000 fine, they said.

The schedule for creating EMASS is tight enough to have prompted McLaughlin and SAD 30 and Union 110 Superintendent Michael Lambert to deliver vote results to the Maine Department of Education offices in Augusta on Wednesday.

An initial AOS board meeting is set for East Range II School in Topsfield at 6 p.m. June 14 to elect a superintendent and discuss a 2010-11 AOS budget. Another EMASS board meeting is set for the same place and time on June 22, Union 107 officials said.

By state law, school and town officials have until July 1, the start of the 2010-11 state fiscal year, to finish forming the AOS or they could face penalties, McLaughlin has said.

EMASS is the second new school system formed in the Lincoln Lakes and Katahdin regions since a state law requiring school consolidation was passed in 2007. The SAD 67 towns of Chester, Lincoln and Mattawamkeag agreed to form RSU 67 in May 2009.

As with RSU 67, officials from EMASS say they don’t expect any significant change in the day-to-day routines of students and parents in the four districts. EMASS will consist of about 950 students. The Maine Department of Education approved forming the district in late April.

The vote totals released by McLaughlin are as follows: Baileyville, 196-85; Cooper 39-12; Grand Lake Stream, 35-24; Princeton, 119-62; Talmadge, 6-8; Waite, 11-14; East Range II CSD, of Topsfield and Codyville Plantation, 62-13; Lakeville 29-16; Lee, 164-83; Springfield, 51-21; Reed Plantation, 21-12; Drew Plantation, 7-3; Carroll Plantation, 24-9; Winn, 47-34; and Webster, 16-4.

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