June 20, 2018
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East-west highway moratorium extension expected to draw crowd to Dexter council meeting Thursday

By Mike Lange, Piscataquis Observer

DEXTER, Maine — The Dexter Town Council is apparently expecting a large crowd for its Dec. 12 meeting, so the 7 p.m. session Thursday has been moved to Ridge View Community School.

One item on the agenda is an ordinance to extend the six-month moratorium imposed on June 13 to prohibit construction of the proposed east-west highway through the community.

Specifically, the proposal would extend the moratorium on construction of private corridors including paved highways, pipelines and high tension transmission lines, for an additional 180 days due to the following:

“(a.) The problem giving rise to the need for the moratorium still exists. (b.) Reasonable progress is being made to alleviate the problem giving rise to the need for the moratorium.”

Nearly 200 people packed the Dexter town hall on June 13 when the moratorium was first proposed, and most of those who addressed the town council said they were opposed to it.

The council eventually voted 4-2 to enact the moratorium with Chairman Peter Haskell and Councilor Alan Wintle opposing it. Councilor Fred Banks said that he had reservations about the moratorium language, but voted for it. Councilor Andre Robichaud was absent that evening.

Former Town Manager Linda-Jean Briggs also told the crowd that she was opposed to the moratorium, stating that endorsing the proposal “would send a message that Dexter doesn’t want business.”

The east-west highway has been on the drawing board for more than three years. It’s slated to be a limited-access toll road from Calais to Coburn Gore, and Cianbro Corporation CEO Peter Vigue — the main proponent of the highway — has stated that the route would not disrupt communities and no land would be taken by eminent domain.

However, Sangerville, Monson, Garland and Parkman residents have also imposed moratoriums on allowing any construction of the highway through their communities.

Sangerville residents passed a rights-based ordinance at a special town meeting in September that prohibits “any corporation or governmental agency to engage in land acquisition for, or engage in the construction of, any private or public-private transportation and distribution center.”

The language was drafted by the nonprofit Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a Pennsylvania group that has helped enact and defend other RBOs across the country.

Other ordinances to be discussed and voted on at the Dec. 12 Dexter Town Council meeting include the transfer of $47,888 from the town’s unreserved fund balances to pay Briggs’ severance package. The amount includes six month’s salary plus deferred compensation.

Shelley Watson was hired by the council to succeed Briggs and she officially took over on Dec. 1. Watson has worked in the town office since 1987 and for the last 17 years as town clerk.

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