September 16, 2019

Voters to decide on Atkinson deorganization

ATKINSON – Residents here have become familiar with the process of deorganization, so few questions were asked during a public hearing on the town’s latest attempt to become an unorganized territory.

Voters will decide at a special town meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 15, whether to proceed with the deorganization plan.

If a majority approves, a bill co-sponsored by state Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, and state Rep. James Annis, R-Dover-Foxcroft, will be submitted to the Legislature for its approval to continue the process.

The final determination on deorganization would then be made by voters during a referendum in November.

Residents were supportive of an attempt to deorganize in November 2002, but the 144-86 vote failed to carry the two-thirds majority needed. The community has about 300 residents.

About 40 people attended Monday’s hearing when the deorganization committee appointed by town officials explained the plan, which includes a change in school districts.

Residents were told that the committee surveyed parents of the approximately 50 schoolchildren and found that an overwhelming majority wanted their children to attend SAD 68 (Dover-Foxcroft) schools and Foxcroft Academy, rather than SAD 41 (Milo), where they now are enrolled. State education officials have agreed to honor the request if the town deorganizes.

The change in school districts is one of the driving factors in the latest attempt to deorganize.

A group of parents met with SAD 68 officials last year to ask for acceptance of the town’s schoolchildren if deorganization were supported. School officials agreed to work with the town.

In addition, supporters say, deorganization would eliminate the frustrations of having to find willing residents to serve elective and appointive municipal offices. Still others say the move would lower taxes in the community where approximately 16,000 of the 24,000 acres are in state-controlled programs that limit the town’s ability to tax.

Not all are supportive of the change, however. Some worry that the town will lose local control and are not happy to have regulation shift from the Department of Environmental Protection to the Land Use Regulation Commission.

Correction: A story on Page B3 in some editions of Wednesday’s paper contained an incorrect date for the Atkinson town meeting. The correct date and time is 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 14.

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