Originally published in The Weekly Packet, September 3, 2020
Blue Hill selectmen finalizing November 3 ballot
Referendum on pesticides and three new measures
by Benjamin Truesdale
At their regular weekly meeting on Monday, August 31, the Blue Hill Selectmen unanimously approved putting three referenda and one “straw poll” on town ballots in November 3rd’s general election.
In advance of election day, the selectmen also moved to hold a virtual public hearing, provisionally scheduled for September 28, in which there will be a brief description of the articles and a period for public comment and questions.
The first referendum will revisit the Blue Hill Healthy Ecosystem Ordinance, an initiative proposing a partial local pesticide ban. This referendum originally appeared as an article for public vote on the July 14 primary election ballot, and town residents voted 588-276 in favor of the ordinance. However, as recorded in the select board’s minutes of July 27, it was “voided due to its not being vetted through the Maine Board of Pesticide Control.”
In recent, frequent dialogue with the original proponents of the ban, the Blue Hill Healthy Ecosystem Group, town officials have redressed the oversight and confirmed the BPC has received and approved of all required pre-filing documents.
Selectman Vaughn Leach said the form and content of this first referendum remains unchanged and stipulates, as before, the implementation of a partial ban on pesticides effective January 2021.
A second ballot referendum will address construction of new South Street sidewalks, which are envisioned to provide greater pedestrian safety to the area and ultimately connect South Street’s schools and businesses to the greater downtown. Although the town won a grant from the Transportation Alternative Program of the Federal Highway Administration in 2019, board members agreed that the project will require a vote on matters of funding and mitigation.
A third referendum will discuss the board’s latest efforts to implement solar energy systems for town-owned buildings in Blue Hill, such as the town hall, schools, the transfer station, and the sewer treatment plant. A majority vote in a poll on the July 14 ballot gave the select board the freedom to pursue and secure contracts in the implementation of municipal solar power.
Following recent approvals for solar power in Sedgwick and Brooklin, the Blue Hill Selectmen are considering bids from ReVision Energy.
“A multi-year contract of this scale should be brought to referendum,” Selectman Jim Dow said, adding that the board preferred to present the issue as a third ballot question.
The selectmen also voted to include a straw poll on this year’s ballot, whose purpose is to test public opinion regarding a potential revision of Blue Hill’s fiscal calendar. The specific terms of such a revision remain under weekly discussion.
Board members said they will continue to discuss and modify the phrasing of all new ballot measures over the next weeks.
“These [referendum questions] are going to appear on November 3, and they’re going to appear on the absentee ballot, as well,” said Leach. “It’s all straightened out.”
Updates on the upcoming public forum will be posted at townofbluehillmaine.org.