Web exclusive, March 12, 2020
School board election voided
Deer Isle approves warrant articles, funding requests
by Leslie Landrigan
with additional reporting by Nat Barrows
The school board election held Saturday, March 7, in Deer Isle has been voided, and the school board election scheduled for Stonington on Friday, March 13, will not take place. The announcement was made in a public memo from Union 76 Superintendent Chris Elkington released late Wednesday, March 11.
The contest between William “Bill” Shepard and incumbent Lawrence P. “Skip” Greenlaw was voided, the memo reported, because warrants for the election were not posted in a timely manner as specified by state statute.
The other elections—for town officials and third-party requests—were not affected, said Deer Isle Town Manager Jim Fisher.
The school board will have a special meeting Thursday, March 12, at 6:30 p.m. to decide how to proceed. In the now voided election, Shepard had outpolled Greenlaw 167-138. The full text of the superintendent’s memo appears at the end of this article.
At the annual Deer Isle Town Meeting Saturday, March 7, voters approved all funding requests and warrant articles, which amount to $1,561,074 in total spending.
Only about 75 people attended the meeting at the Reach Performing Arts Center while estimates of as many as 800 attended a cheering competition next door at the Deer Isle-Stonington High School gym.
On her way to town meeting, Eliza Harrison saw so many cars at the high school she thought that’s where the town meeting was held. She went inside to discover the cheering competition.
“I’m aghast that so many people didn’t even know there was a town meeting,” she said. “I’m sad because there are a lot of issues we have to deal with.”
Looking around the Reach theater, she said hardly anyone under 50 was at the meeting.
“We need young people to come,” said Dave Farrell. “It should be the town’s responsibility to pick the best time for people to attend.”
But Selectman Ronald Eaton said the date for Town Meeting was picked nearly a year ago.
More than 300 people cast ballots in the referendum held at the town office that morning. Voters returned three unopposed town officials: Selectman Eaton, Town Clerk Heather Cormier and Treasurer/Tax Collector Judy Dunham.
The voters also approved all 15 requests for funding from outside agencies, including a new request this year to spend $5,000 on Island Workforce Housing. They voted yes for that request by a margin of 182 to 122. Opiate-Free Island Partnership reduced its request this year by 25 percent to $7,500, winning approval by 195 to 109.
Much of the town meeting discussion focused on infrastructure, especially roads and streetlights. Selectman Percy L. “Joe” Brown Jr. said the 5 percent budget increase was largely for the transfer station and road maintenance and paving.
Deer Isle resident Kathleen Billings asked if the town had a plan for taking care of its 70 miles of roads.
“Are you asking if we have a plan?” said Brown.
“Yes, I am,” replied Billings.
Brown said they plan to develop a five-year plan, a priority for the new road commissioner, A.J. Battles, who will begin work at the end of March.
“That’s good, thank you,” said Billings.
Streetlights, a $6,000 item, got the most attention from voters, more than the hundred-thousand dollar items, noted Selectman Peter Perez after the meeting.
Voters complained the street lights by the high school and Dow Road are out, and the one by the Congregational Church goes on and off.
Brown agreed to check the light by the church, but Town Manager Jim Fisher said the town needs to overhaul the whole system. The utility Emera Maine pays for replacing the lights, he said.
Moderator Loring Kydd, at one point, with a smile, chided Mike Wood for his politically incorrect use of the word “dump.”
“It’s the ‘transfer station,’” Kydd said.
“I stand corrected,” Wood said.
At the end, Kydd said in his years as moderator, he’d had more participation than ever. “I was really pleased by the participation,” he said.
To: Community Members of Deer Isle & Stonington
From: Christian M. Elkington
Re: School Board Election Process Error
SU 76 is sorry to report that late yesterday afternoon we found that we had made a process error in the running of this year’s school board election. Warrants reporting that the election was to take place were not put in place around the towns of Deer Isle and Stonington seven days in advance as is expected by state statute. Our failure to post this information has caused the school board election to be voided in both towns. This means that the votes that were collected in Deer Isle are voided and that the vote for school board scheduled for this [Friday] in Stonington will not take place.
My apologies go out to the voters of Deer Isle. I am very sorry that the exercising of your civic duty has been wasted because of our mistake. My sincerest apologies also go out to school board candidates, Bill Shepard and Skip Greenlaw, for the difficulties our mistake has caused you both.
Tomorrow night [March 12] in the Deer Isle-Stonington High School Cafeteria at 6:30 p.m., the CSD School Board will be holding a special meeting to declare that “the election be declared defective and invalid due to the lack of a posted warrant,” and that “the result of the election is an invalid election for lack of legal notification.” The school board will also be discussing possible next steps and making a decision on how to proceed.