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To re-vote or not to re-vote?
That was the question before the Brooksville selectmen at their March 23 meeting. Their answer was not to schedule a re-vote on three ordinances that appeared on the March 7 referendum ballot despite a controversy over wording.
Chairman John Gray said he was open to considering a petition from at least 75 registered voters requesting a re-vote. However, based on a telephoned opinion from Town Attorney Diane O’Connell, Gray and fellow selectmen Richard Bakeman and Darrell Fowler unanimously agreed after lengthy discussion to let the votes stand.
Supporters of the “Local Food and Community Self Governance Ordinance,” defeated by a nine vote margin (161-152), objected to the notation printed below each referendum question that read, “The Ordinance Review Committee does not recommend adoption of this ordinance.”
An ordinance that would have prohibited blueberry spraying was also defeated (167-147), while a cell tower ordinance was approved (163-149) despite its ‘no’ recommendation.
Attending the March 23 selectmen’s meeting were Sarah Cox, representing the ordinance review committee, Deborah Evans of Bagaduce Farm and Town Clerk Amber Bakeman.
Most of the discussion focused on whether the recommendations should have been printed on the ballot, and whether or not their presence changed the outcome of the vote.
The 2005 ordinance creating the ordinance review committee requires that ordinances presented to the town have the committee’s recommendation printed on the warrant.
In a memo to the selectmen, Cox reported on a conversation with the Maine Municipal Association in which she learned: 1) the recommendation should not have appeared on the ballot; 2) the results are presumed valid unless a court declares them to be invalid following a complaint; and 3) the selectmen have the option of doing nothing or conducting another election on the two defeated ordinances. According to the memo, holding another election is preferable.
The difference between the wide approval margin for local food ordinances in Sedgwick and Penobscot and the narrow defeat in Brooksville was also discussed. In those towns, the ordinances were presented and voted in well-attended open town meetings. Gray and Fowler said Brooksville residents had ample opportunity to inform themselves before the referendum vote because the ordinances were printed in the town report and the subject of two public meetings.