Public hearing in Trenton draws quiet crowd

TRENTON  Only one comment was made at the town’s public hearing Tuesday night, which was over in a matter of minutes.  

Open to the public via Zoom videoconferencing, the hearing drew in several virtual participants and was held to discuss three referendum articles slated for the town’s warrant, one of which being whether Trenton should declare itself a Second Amendment sanctuary town. 

Municipalities around the country have declared themselves “sanctuaries” as a way for local governments to oppose potential gun control measures that some see as unconstitutional. 

In part, the proposed resolution states, “The Town of Trenton wishes to further express opposition to any law that would unconstitutionally restrict the rights of our citizens to peacefully keep and bear arms.” 

According to written comment provided by Trenton resident Alf Anderson, which was read by Selectman Daniel Monahan, the measure is unnecessary. 

“The Second Amendment is alive and well in America and the idea that we need to provide some further sanctuary for its protection is sheer propaganda,” Anderson wrote. 

“There is no pending threat to anyone’s right to bear arms in Trenton, or any other town in Maine,” he continued. 

He closed his comment by saying that making the town a sanctuary will “only further confuse people on a topic that is already emotionally charged.” 

The public hearing also gave participants the chance to comment on a citizens’ petition that was placed on the warrant after receiving 75 signatures. The petition asks voters if they want to direct the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee to develop a committee that would form a plan of withdrawal from Alternative Organizational Structure 91 (AOS 91) of which the Trenton Elementary School is a member. 

The plan would then go to the state’s Department of Education for approval and would then be presented to Trenton voters for final approval. 

While the petition question is set to be on the warrant, its legality has recently been called into question. 

According to a legal opinion from the school’s attorney, Greg Im of Drummond Woodsum Attorneys at Law, “What the petitioners are requesting does not follow any existing legal process for withdrawal from the AOS.” 

At the School Committee’s April 13 meeting in which the committee discussed Im’s findings, Superintendent Marc Gousse paraphrased a conversation he had with the state’s commissioner of education, Pender Makin.  

He said she “Would certainly never not look at a recommendation or a request but in short, if a path for withdrawal by any citizen group or any entity did not flow through the School Board, the duly elected body to represent the schools, the students, that’s a red flag.” 

Nobody from the public commented on the petition at the hearing Tuesday. 

The third article for voters to weigh in on (which none did) is the “Resolution Supporting the Creation of an Equitable Health Care Plan for All Maine Residents.” 

The nonbinding resolution states that “access to health care is a basic human right that should not depend on employment or ability to pay,” and if adopted, would voice support in developing “an equitable health care plan providing every Maine resident with health care from birth to death.” 

Following the public hearing at the Board of Selectmen’s regular meeting, questions regarding the Trenton Elementary School’s proposed 2021-22 budget were raised by Chairman Fred Ehrlenbach. 

After reviewing the town and school audit, Ehrlenbach said he found a discrepancy within the school’s budget. He moved that the School Committee revisit the budget to make potential revisions. 

In a discussion with Nancy Thurlow, business manager for AOS 91, Ehrlenbach said, “The way I see it, you’re $110,000 short.” 

Thurlow went over the budget and explained that, contrary to Ehrlenbach’s calculations, the school will be starting the school year with a carry-forward of $543,055. 

The board decided to table Ehrlenbach’s motion and invite the town’s auditor, James Wadman, CPA, of James W. Wadman Certified Public Accountants in Ellsworth, to an upcoming board meeting to go over the budget. 

Erhlenbach expressed the need to understand the budget before Town Meeting. 

Voting for election officials and the referendum articles is scheduled for May 17, with open Town Meeting scheduled for the following day at the Trenton Elementary School. 

The board discussed setting an alternate date for the open meeting due to the state allowing an increase in the number of people permitted at public gatherings after May 24.  

Town Clerk Carol Walsh said she would reach out to the school to see what dates in June the school could accommodate.  

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Rebecca is the Schoodic-area reporter and covers the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and baby boy who was joyously welcomed in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and story ideas to [email protected]

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