Veazie residents at hearing favor exploring bid to get out of school district

Posted March 12, 2012, at 10:24 p.m.

VEAZIE, Maine — During a public hearing at Monday night’s town council meeting, residents largely agreed that school consolidation has failed Veazie and that the town should continue the push to explore seceding from RSU 26.

Voters will decide on March 27 whether to allow the town to spend up to $50,000 on legal fees and other costs that would stem from moving forward in the withdrawal process. The polls in Veazie will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the town office.

If voters approve the secession question, a committee made up of a town councilor, a member of the withdrawal group, a member of the school board and a member of the public will enter into negotiations with the school board.

Those who spoke at Monday’s hearing favored moving ahead in the withdrawal process. Some wanted out as soon as possible, arguing that consolidation of schools was a mistake for Veazie, while others wanted to see a “yes” vote so a withdrawal committee could start crunching numbers and give residents a better idea of what secession would mean for the town’s finances.

“I feel that it’s in our best interest to move forward with the process so we can all receive the numbers,” resident Dave Wardrop said, adding that seeing estimates of the dollars and cents behind a potential withdrawal would allow voters to make an “educated decision.”

The plan that comes out of the withdrawal committee has to be approved in another election by a two-thirds vote before it goes to the state Department of Education for approval or denial. State lawmakers are considering legislation that would lower that two-thirds approval requirement to a majority requirement.

Former council member Helen Cheney said she didn’t think it made much sense for the town to spend $50,000 to proceed with its withdrawal attempt, but added that she didn’t feel the school district organization benefited Veazie.

“With the consolidation, we lost the local touch,” she said.

State statute requires that a withdrawal petition question designate an amount up to $50,000 to cover expenses during the withdrawal. If voters agree to move forward, the town will have to set aside the funds.

Any portion of the $50,000 spending limit that isn’t used during the withdrawal process would go back into town accounts, Town Attorney Thomas Russell has said.

Glenburn, another RSU 26 member, also is considering secession and will hold its first withdrawal vote from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the same day as Veazie’s, March 27. The vote will be held at the Glenburn Town Office.

Also at Monday night’s meeting, the Veazie Town Council presented an award to Mary Carmack, a John Bapst Memorial High School student who was one of two seniors recognized by the Siemens Foundation for receiving the top Advanced Placement scores in the state.

“We are very proud to have this young person in our town. Congratulations,” Council Chairman Joseph Friedman said as he and Town Manager Joseph Hayes handed Carmack a framed certificate.

The council also recognized James Parker for 34 years of service on the Orono-Veazie Water District.

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