SOUTHWEST HARBOR—When residents convene for this year’s annual Town Meeting on Saturday, June 5, they will have the opportunity to vote on Article 43 after all.
Article 43, listed on the warrant approved by selectmen during their March 23 meeting, asks voters to decide whether or not to apply for a grant with the Land Water and Conservation Fund for two proposed projects in town. Inside the recently printed town report is a draft warrant that is different from the one approved at the March meeting. A copy of the signed warrant from the March meeting will be available for attendants of the annual Town Meeting.
On Tuesday, after listening to public comments, a motion was made to rescind the entire warrant that was approved on March 23 and adopt a new one in which Article 43 asks whether or not to pursue funding for only one of the projects – to develop a Main Street property next to Chris’s Pond. Because it ended in a tie, the vote did not go forward, which means the originally approved Article 43 will remain on this year’s Town Meeting warrant.
Former Board of Selectmen Chairman Kristin Hutchins resigned after the board’s May 11 meeting (see related story on page 1), which leaves four selectmen until the annual Town Meeting election. Newly elected chairman Chad Terry and Carolyn Ball were the two members in favor of rescinding the entire warrant and adopting a new one to give voters a chance to weigh in on pursuing the grant for Chris’s Pond. George Jellison and Allen ‘Snap’ Willey were opposed. Terry, Willey and Jellison were the three Board of Selectmen members who decided in favor of not pursuing the grant funding for both projects at the May 11 meeting.
“We’ve got three people on a board that basically stopped both of these projects,” said resident Paul Slack at the meeting on Tuesday. “I’m requesting the Board of Selectmen to reconsider your decision to rescind Article 43. The selectmen should not take that opportunity away from us.”
Slack was among a small crowd that gathered at the firehouse on Main Street for the meeting, with several more tuning in via Zoom. Most were asking the board to reconsider its decision regarding the grant funding. According to Terry, the selectmen who voted not to pursue the funding were acting on the recommendation from Harbor Committee members who voted to stop pursuing the grant for a proposed development at the Manset Dock.
“We were really shocked with the board’s decision,” said Jane Peabody, the treasurer of the Conservation Committee who presented what is being called the Chris’s Pond proposal at the May 11 meeting. “We feel it’s very unfortunate the select board decided to take it away. We would really like you to consider not rescinding it.”
Jellison listed several reasons for not being in favor of pursuing the Chris’s Pond grant, including an increase in cost as the project morphed, wanting the question to be on the written ballot at the Town Meeting election not the open floor, and a lack of information.
“I try to make my decisions on information I have in front of me,” he said. “A lot of this has been a moving target.”
Former Board of Selectmen member Lydia Goetze attended the meeting and weighed in on the matter. She said she could understand Jellison’s concerns if the article was asking residents to spend money.
“This article simply asks us to apply for a grant,” said Goetze. “We don’t even know if we’ll get it.”
Once the vote ended in a tie, which means Article 43 remains on the warrant, Goetze asked if it could be amended from the floor of Town Meeting to be only for the Chris’s Pond project.
“A motion can be made at Town Meeting to remove the Manset project on that article,” Town Manager Dana Reed confirmed.