News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, March 9, 2017
Voters call for parking enforcement, pot moratorium in Stonington

Chapman addressed audience

Karen Chapman speaks to the audience regarding a $20,000 appropriation for Opiate-free Island Partnership, which ultimately did not pass voter muster.

Photo by Faith DeAmbrose Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Faith DeAmbrose

In two and a half hours, Stonington voters approved 81 warrant articles setting in motion plans for the ensuing year.

As the business portion of town meeting began March 6, Rich Howe was elected moderator and, after a few housekeeping articles, voters got right into business, deciding the fate of a moratorium on retail sales of marijuana and debating a request to help facilitate education and treatment for a present-day opiate abuse problem.

Retail marijuana moratorium
Voters, with little discussion, adopted a 180-day moratorium ordinance aimed at retail marijuana sales. The ordinance sets the work in motion, imposing a timeline that can be extended for 180 days, under state statute, by a vote of the selectmen after a public hearing, if certain conditions are met. Town Manager Kathleen Billings said the town would review existing ordinances and continue to utilize resources and information from Maine Municipal Association as it decides the best course of action.

Municipalities, under the law, have the ability to regulate or to prohibit retail marijuana sales and social clubs.

The state has until February 2018 to write and implement the rules necessary for administering the law passed in November legalizing recreational marijuana. While it became legal to grow your own in January, the infrastructure needed to oversee the retail sales is not yet in place.

Opiate-free Island Partnership
By a written ballot vote of 30-45, a measure to fund a $20,000 request from the Opiate-free Island Partnership was defeated.

Voters expressed a wide range of opinions about the warrant article, but ultimately declined to fund it. The article, which came as a citizen petition from OFIP, did not name the organization to receive the funds in its submitted warrant article, but drafted the article, gathered the signatures and presented it to the town with enough signatures to place it on the warrant. Speaking on behalf of OFIP, Roger Bergen outlined how the money would be spent.

As requested, the $20,000, if passed, would have been combined with $70,000 from other sources to fund a wider program under the auspices of the group.

As voters spoke for and against the measure, it was clear that even those that were not in favor of the request, were supportive of the group’s effort to combat the drug problem.

No one disagreed that there was a drug problem on the island.

One man spoke about the death of his daughter to opioid abuse, initially stemming from the use of pain pills after an accident, while others spoke of the need to make sure that as a community there is a plan is in place for education and treatment.

Still, others in the crowd did not believe that funding should come from the taxpayers and suggested that those wishing to contribute could do so once the group becomes a 501(c)(3).

A similar request made in Deer Isle passed by majority vote, leaving members of the group unsure as to the next steps immediately following the meeting. More information is expected in the coming weeks.

An increase in police presence during the summer months will result from an approved $6,000 expenditure for parking enforcement. Sheriff Scott Kane, who was at the meeting, said that at least in its first year, sheriff’s deputies would increase their patrols and help the town establish an infrastructure to deal with its summer parking swell. “Let us help you get this off the ground,” said Kane.

Billings estimated that the money would buy about 100 extra hours during the height of the tourist season.

Additionally, with the enforcement piece in place, Billings said the town would begin to take the recommendations from the parking committee and codify them into the current parking ordinance. A parking ordinance is one of the few ordinances that selectmen have the authority to change, but only after a public hearing has been called to discuss proposed changes.

Other business
In other business, voters approved the transfer of $330,000 from the town’s surplus to fund major capital projects. The largest sum, $200,000 will fund improvements at the transfer station, including a new compactor along with the electrical and concrete work and a new building to cover it, repairs and upgrades to the existing, 25-year-old compactor and a new plastics baler for the recycling building.

In addition, $100,000 from surplus will be used for drainage improvements under Route 15 from Thurlow’s Hill to Hagen Dock and $30,000 for shingling and roof repairs at the town hall.

When all was said and done voters approved a municipal budget of about $1.6 million, and without funding the $20,000 request, passed a total budget that was flat over the year before.

Election result
Selectman (two seats open)
John Robbins 108
John Steed

CSD #13 (Stonington only)
Skip Greenlaw(3-year) 57
Loring Kydd
(1-year) 77
Amy Vaughn (1-year) 34
*Denotes winner, island-wide for CSD

Ballot clerks count

Ballot clerks count the returns from a secret ballot vote.

Photo by Faith DeAmbrose
Howe and Bradshaw

Moderator Rich Howe and Town Clerk Lucy Bradshaw go over documents ahead of opening the town meeting.

Photo by Faith DeAmbrose
Chapman addressed audience

Karen Chapman speaks to the audience regarding a $20,000 appropriation for Opiate-free Island Partnership, which ultimately did not pass voter muster.

Photo by Faith DeAmbrose
Selectman Donna Brewer casts a ballot

Selectman Donna Brewer casts a ballot during the Stonington town meeting on March 6.

Photo by Faith DeAmbrose
Mark Picton speaks

Mark Picton speaks to the Opiate-Free Island Partnership warrant article, urging residents to support the $20,000 appropriation.

Photo by Faith DeAmbrose
Opiate-Free Island Partnership

Roger Bergen who said “I’m amazed at how severe this problem is,” spoke on behalf of the Opiate-Free Island Partnership.

Photo by Faith DeAmbrose