March 31, 2017

Gray secession goes to Augusta for state hearing and returns by Stephen Signor

In a hearing with the Town of Gray Council and Gray residents on March 21, Jennifer White, chairperson and spokesperson for the Gray Secession Committee provided a description of the problems that have led to the secession effort. Items discussed included: Problems faced on both sides of the issues, potential solutions other than the secession and the potential impact the secession might have on the designated territory and the municipality. 
The Town of Gray’s attorney and newly elected moderator, William Dale, was sworn in as a requirement by state statute to oversee the proceedings, to hear reasons for the secession and address things that can be done short of secession.

In review: On January 27, 2016 five registered voters formed this committee to commence procedures. After several delays (caused by registered voters not reflected by updated census information and a national election that limited the amount of attention) in January 2017, over 51 percent of the 302 registered voters signed the petition. On the 26th of the same month all signatures had been verified. stated that, “In a 2010 census a geographical separation exists that has led to a real identity crisis for residents in the secession territory. Our area is known to locals as Graymond. While this may be a joke to some, it is taken seriously by those who live there. As White pointed out, “Mailing addresses have always been Raymond, fire and rescue services are provided by Raymond and even a GPS device indicates a Raymond address”.  These were just a few of the examples presented to council members.

Hard pressed to resolve these and other issues and figure out any feasible solutions pertaining to the geographical area, statues require that possible solutions be discussed including secession. To this end, White encouraged feedback. “We welcome any constructive citizen and municipal dialog that can present realistic solutions to this unique issue.” At the same time she also pointed out that, “The Legislature finds that the citizens of the State, in accordance with the Constitution of Maine, Article 1, Section 2, have an unalienable and indefeasible right to institute government and to alter, reform or totally change the same, when their safety and happiness require it.”   

One of the major factors that prompted secession was health and safety and came in the form of transportation, specifically - school buses. “Elementary school children have to spend roughly two and one quarter hours on a  bus, round-trip daily, thus creating unhealthy conditions,” White stated to the Council.  Sighting examples of both physical and mental outcomes, White continued, “This leads to aggressive behavior, social interactions, insufficient adult supervision and less time to spend on homework, sports and family time.” 

To reinforce her stand, White pointed out that the MSAD 15 Board of Directors adopted a policy under the title, Student Transportation Services, which states that bus routes should not result in students spending more than one hour on the bus either to or from school, barring unforeseen traffic or weather conditions. “Many times this time frame has been exceeded because of our geographical location.”
As council members listened, proponents as well as opponents voiced their opinions with the support of documentation.

 In what would be her closing statement of this meeting White said, “The secession board feels that most of the opposing argument and evidence was subjective. The councilman who presented names of town government volunteers, failed to mention that some of them were retired, therefore having much time on their hands. The town council and attendees failed to come up with any solutions to the problems. The town council failed to look at our problems as real issues; once again. They showed more concern about budgets and money spent on the town on this and failed to bring to the table a level of empathy for the issues the residents in the secession area are facing. No viable solutions were offered.”

Since then a state hearing on LD 619 and Mt. Hunger Shore LD 618 was done simultaneously and lasted under three hours. There will be a work session next week on the bill and the legislative committee will deliberate and decide then whether to put it through to vote before the House and Senate. 

“This is a citizens' initiative but it is imperative that we have legal counsel and representation to get through some of these steps. Ann Robinson from Pierce Atwood was present today and we need her continued help for the upcoming work session and hopefully the upcoming vote of the House and Senate. If you haven't yet had an opportunity to contribute toward legal expenses, this would be a critical time to do that,” concluded White.

To make a donation please mail to: Gray Secession, P. O. Box 829, Raymond, ME 04071

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