May 20, 2018
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Willimantic residents may deorganize town

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

MONSON, Maine — After months of turmoil in town government and a lack of candidates willing to run for municipal offices, Willimantic residents agreed at the annual town meeting Thursday to investigate deorganization.

Selectman Linda Packard resigned earlier this year and Selectmen John Tatko and Tom Capraro both abruptly resigned in August after months of criticism over work done to renovate the historic town hall. Rene Gorey was elected in August to fill out Packard’s term.

“I have never seen this town as fractured and as angry and as divisive as it is now,” Selectwoman Susan Bennett said Thursday. Bennett was elected in September to serve one of the two unexpired terms until the annual town meeting.

Bennett said residents in the town had been talking at their kitchen tables for 15 years about deorganizing. Given the recent events, she recommended and voters supported looking into the procedure. A public hearing will be held before next year’s annual town meeting to share the findings.

Resident Gordon Moore, who is the Land Use Regulation Commission representative for the area, said Thursday that the town will lose its local control for just about everything if it deorganizes. He said residents needed to get along with one another and work for the good of the town.

“Start acting like adults,” Moore said. “The last few selectmen were treated very poorly when they were trying to do decent things. Maybe it didn’t work out right in all cases, but they didn’t deserve the treatment that they got.”

After several nominations were declined Thursday, residents did elect David Rice and Julius Erdo as selectmen. Tina Viekman was re-elected town clerk, Michelle Nichols as town treasurer, Tom Goulette as tax collector, Fred Turner as road commissioner, and Jeff Morin to the Hospital Administrative District 4 board of directors.

In an after-the-fact vote, the approximately 40 residents who attended agreed to spend up to $158,105 from the capital improvement account to pay the town’s share of the Earley Bridge reconstruction.

The town had agreed earlier to contribute to the bridge work, as did the Department of Transportation, and the work was completed but residents never authorized the payment, Bennett said. She said she believed it was just an oversight by former town officials. However, she called it the most “serious thing I’ve ever seen come before the town” and urged residents to support the expenditure or be prepared for lawsuits.

Residents reduced the amount for improvements to Tim’s Cove Road to $3,257. Some residents said it was time to spend money fixing up the town roads rather than the roads to seasonal camps. The initial amount recommended by the budget committee was to raise $4,000 and use the $3,257 carried forward.

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