ELLSWORTH – There will be a new regional school unit for Ellsworth and 10 other towns after balloting on a proposed reorganization plan Tuesday.
Voters in all but one of the towns approved the plan for the new RSU. Only in the town of Otis did voters reject the plan. The vote was 57-37 against the proposal.
Less than 1 percent of the voters in the city of Ellsworth cast ballots on the issue, according to City Clerk Heidi Noel Grindle. Superintendents Wayne Enman of Ellsworth and Bill Webster of Union 96 said they were disappointed in the turnout but were ready to move forward to do the work needed to create the new RSU, which is scheduled to begin operating on July 1.
“The turnout was low throughout the town, but the majority of people who turned out voted in favor of the plan,” Webster said Tuesday night. “I’m looking forward to moving ahead and working to make this a success.”
Webster said that although there was a lot of disagreement and frustration with the process the state had dictated, the result would be in the best interest of the students.
The new school district will combine schools from Ellsworth; the Union 92 towns of Hancock, Lamoine, Eastbrook, and Waltham; and the Union 96 towns of Franklin, Gouldsboro, Sorrento, Steuben, Sullivan and Winter Harbor. Two Union 92 towns opted to join other districts, with Trenton joining the Mount Desert Island schools and Surry linking with Unions 93 and 76 on the Blue Hill Peninsula.
It is unclear what will happen to the Union 92 communities of Mariaville and Otis.
“I don’t know what they’re going to do,” Enman said.
Although Mariaville approved the plan, the two towns are uniquely linked. According to Webster, the towns have the only union school in the state, sharing one school building with each town holding a percentage of ownership in the school. How the split vote in the two towns will affect Mariaville’s participation in the new RSU is unknown, he said
“It’s a mess there,” Webster said.
Once the state Department of Education has certified the vote, the towns will begin the formal process of putting the new RSU plan into action.
“There’s a lot of work to be done to get the new RSU up by July 1,” Enman said.
The superintendents are scheduled to meet today to begin outlining the steps in that process. By law, the first step will be a joint meeting of the full boards from all the towns that have approved the plan. The meeting has been set for 7 p.m. Monday at Sumner High School. At that time, the boards will hire an interim secretary who will begin the process to elect a new RSU board of directors.
The results of Tuesday’s votes in the individual communities, with the yes vote listed first, are: Ellsworth, 175-120; Hancock, 70-54; Lamoine, 185-71; Mariaville, 25-11; Otis, 37-57; Eastbrook, 28-10; Waltham, 20-14; Franklin, 76-27; Gouldsboro, 81-54; Sorrento, 36-14; Steuben, 45-41; Sullivan, 57-43; Winter Harbor, 33-22. Because the Union 96 towns also form the Flanders Bay Community School District, their town votes could not be split and had to be tallied as one unit. The combined vote was 328-201 in favor of the plan.