Cary First Selectman Kai Libby speaks to the audience Monday night at the annual town meeting. The gathering marked the final town meeting for Cary residents as the town officially joins the Unorganized Territory on July 1. Credit: Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times

A group of about 35 residents gathered one last time to conduct town business Monday evening at Hodgdon Middle-High School.

As of July 1, Cary Plantation will become Cary Township and be part of the state’s Unorganized Territory. It will mark the end of a nearly seven-year process to turn management of the town over to the state.

During the town meeting portion of the gathering, residents only had to authorize the expense of funds by the selectmen for the next three months. No new tax dollars were raised as a result of any warrant articles.

“We have enough money left over that we are not issuing another tax bill to our constituents,” said Tina Libby, chairman of the deorganization committee. “We may only have 16 cents left when it’s all done, but that is better than turning over a handful of money [to the state].”

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Any funds the town has left in its account after June 30, will be placed into an escrow account by the state to cover any expenses that may arise.

In November 2018, residents voted 105-4 to finalize the deorganization process. With a population of 189, the townspeople sought to dissolve because of their dwindling numbers and increasing municipal costs, including for plowing and maintaining 13 miles of roads.

Residents have been paying as much as $30 per $1,000 of valuation in recent years, but as an unorganized town, that property tax rate is expected to drop dramatically.

Residents of the 108 townships in the Unorganized Territory in Aroostook rely on the county and state for public services, including roads, and were assessed a $7.05 mill rate in 2018.

[Cary residents pass final deorganization vote]

While more communities in Maine have tried to deorganize, only 16 succeeded between 1951 and 2017. Piscataquis County officials also are making preparations for Atkinson to join the state’s Unorganized Territory on July 1.

Libby said the town plans to hold some sort of large gathering once the dissolution process is complete.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” she said. “For a lot of people, they have lived here their whole lives. We will still be neighbors though. Nothing is really going to change all that much.”

Among the few things that will change, though, is the location for registering vehicles and dogs. Starting July 1, residents will need to go to neighboring Hodgdon to register their vehicles, sign up to vote, or obtain dog licenses.

“I think this will be a good move for me and others taxwise,” Cary resident Maureen Theriault said. “The first year we bought our house in 1977, our taxes were $35. Now they are $1,200-plus.”

She said the couple is getting older and on fixed incomes, “yet the taxes keep going up.”

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Theriault added that she has no concerns over the town “losing its identity” by deorganizing.

Rodney Suitter echoed those sentiments.

“I believe this is something that has to be,” he said. “Small towns like this, it’s harder and harder to get people to run for office. And it’s a lot more complicated than it used to be. I’m actually quite thrilled about it.”

This story was originally published in The County.