The Quoddy Tides

Eastport, Maine

2007 March 23

Pros and cons of Perry negotiating committee weighed

by Eileen Curry

On Thursday, March 8, a public hearing regarding two referendum questions in Perry brought a turnout of about 25 people to discuss a proposed Pavement Management Plan that would initiate an 11-year paving plan and road maintenance for the town with an increase in spending up to $160,000, and a citizens' initiative that asks the town to conduct all future discussions with Quoddy Bay LNG with an 11-member committee comprised of several officials and representatives of the Perry community.

The proposed negotiating committee was a heated topic of discussion during the hearings. The small group of residents spoke for and against the issue of a community negotiating committee, and some people had questions regarding the possibility of Question 1 on the ballot, the Quoddy Bay LNG Financial Framework Agreement, passing along with Question 3, the community committee initiative. David Turner, chairman of the selectmen, said, "In the event that both the agreement with Quoddy Bay LNG and the town and the community committee are approved, if that happens, a call will be made to the Maine Municipal Association (MMA) to see what are next step would be."

Turner was asked if he thought that the special town meeting initiated by Selectwoman Jeanne Guisinger and the Perry Citizens for Responsible Growth group to broaden the community negotiating committee with more members was valid. "No," he said, "that meeting was not a legally binding meeting. We don't have any choice right now but to leave the question as is on the ballot, asking for an 11-member committee. We've had legal opinions on the matter, from Becky Seel of MMA, our attorney and attorney John Foster. We have to accept the original version of it."

Selectwoman Jeanne Guisinger, speaking in favor of the larger community negotiating committee, read a statement during the hearing. "On February 1 of this year, a special town meeting was called by a notary public to address the question of a special negotiating committee. Perry selectmen were notified in December that the desire for a negotiating committee existed and were then given a petition in early January requesting a special town meeting. Their request was quickly dismissed and put off until a March referendum vote. Feeling that justice delayed constituted justice denied, Perry citizens then called a special town meeting through a notary public, a right reserved for an unreasonable refusal on the part of town officials." Guisinger noted that the special town meeting was well attended and produced a committee that was approved by Perry voters by a margin of 2 – 1. "Perry selectmen had three choices: they could have graciously accepted the results of the town meeting, they could challenge the vote in court, or they could simply ignore the collective voice of the people they serve and leave it up to the citizens to take it to court. A majority of two on the board of selectmen chose the latter."

Question 3 remains on the ballot in its original form to include an 11-member committee.

Perry resident and Passamaquoddy tribal member Sandra Yarmal spoke out in opposition to the community committee, commenting that the ballot question itself was too long. "Any question [on the ballot] that is more than three lines long leaves open the opportunity for confusion." She stated, "This is an incredibly heavy number of people to have on this committee. It would render itself ineffective with too many people asking too much and leaving too much room for error. No matter what side of the court you're on, this heavy-handed activity in favor of it is not part of being an American." Yarmal also stated that she thought that the proposed committee "was not a true cross section of the community."

Another comment came from an unidentified man regarding the disagreements over the negotiating committee. He commented, "Look, the townspeople elected three people to get into this. If you don't like it, elect someone else. Three people should be the only ones doing any negotiating."

Concerning the 11-year paving plan for the town, it would begin in the spring of 2007. If passed the play is by voters, a cost breakdown by year would be implemented to begin work on the South Meadow/Golding Road north in 2007; the Lake Road to Route 1 to Golding Road, South Meadow, Golding to Route 1 in 2008. The estimated cost for 2007 road maintenance is $139,825. A list of town roads and the year for planned paving can be obtained by calling any one of three selectmen. The list will be available during the town meeting.


© 2007 The Quoddy Tides
Eastport, Maine
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.