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Board votes against putting merger on ballot/ petition may get it on anyway
PARIS — An attempt to put the Paris-Norway police merger on the November ballot failed Monday evening, when the board of selectmen voted 3-2 against it.
In August, the merger was defeated in a 41-41 tie vote at a special town meeting, but some have been trying to put the issue to voters again in November.
Chairman Sam Elliot made a motion to place a referendum on the November ballot that would authorize the board to enter into a trial year police merger with Norway.
Elliot said that, because the August vote had been so close, it had left the issue open-ended.
The large November turn-out would give the town a definitive answer, Elliot said, but in order to get on the ballot, the referendum needs to be filed 45 days in advance of the November 6 election.
He advocated moving the process forward as quickly as possible.
Selectman Ryan Lorrain agreed putting the issue on the November ballot was a good idea.
He said he understood people's concerns with the substance of the last agreement, but believed there was support for the merger concept.
Lorrain said he knew some people who were unable to attend the special town meeting – having the question on the November ballot would allow those citizens to have a say, he argued.
Vice-Chair Bob Kirchherr disagreed with putting the issue on the November ballot.
He insisted the board needed more time to draw up an agreement that was acceptable to residents.
"It was clear to me that there was concern that the document that was used to provide the framework for the merger was not acceptable for a number of people," he said.
Until the issues were resolved, it would be premature and inappropriate to put the question on the ballot, Kirchherr said.
"There's no reason to expedite this," he argued.
Selectman Robert Wessels argued that the town had already been through the voting process in August. Putting the merger issue on the November ballot had "the air of backdoor to it," even if that wasn't the intention, he said.
Residents in attendance expressed disapproval with a referendum, accusing board members of trying to ram the issue through.
"I don't mean to be belligerent ... but you would give us no choice but to lobby against it," said Kathy Richardson, a vocal opponent of the original merger proposal.
She said it that would be unfortunate, because there was still merit to the proposal.
Janet Jamison said putting the vote on the ballot would be a disservice to the people who voted in August. She suggested the board wait to reconsider the idea until it hired a new town manager.
Rick Little, another resident, suggested the board re-visit contracting with the Sheriff's office for services. He gave the board figures he said were more accurate than those provided to the board by the Sheriff earlier this year.
Jack Richardson, another merger opponent, said it didn't make logical sense for the town to rush into the agreement. He also expressed concern about the cost – the town would need to spend $2,800 to put the issue on the November ballot.
Elliot disagreed with the characterization that the issue was being rammed through.
He repeated that a large turn-out in November would be a fair way to get an answer to the issue.
The board voted against putting the referendum on the ballot, 3-2, with Elliot and Lorrain voting for the motion.
This isn't the first time the merger issue has been suggested for a referendum question.
Last week, a citizen began circulating a petition to put the issue on the November ballot. Petitioners must collect 243 verifiable signatures from residents of Paris – 10 percent of the voters registered at the last gubanatorial election. If they succeed and submit the petition by September 21, the question will go on the November ballot.