AHI: United States » Opting out of micro-government: Part 9, Fewer …
Before I sleep
As we ve seen in these leisurely ramble through the north Maine woods, for a town to deorganize is no easy matter.
Sources used in this post
Wikipedia, Bancroft, Maine (accessed February 21, 2016; Kelly green font)15
Indeed, so many are the detailed inventories, disposition and reallocation plans, procedural steps, and required permissions, that the town may in fact reach its height of social organization in the instant before it politically deorganizes because it takes that degree of precise organization to persuade the state to grant approval of the deorganization plan.
Rural Maine family, circa 1900
Atkinson has voted on deorganization three times in the last 16 years with mixed results. The first attempt in 1997 failed at the polls, but voters approved deorganizing in 2002 and 2004, only to have the plan rejected by the Legislature.16
Secure state approval of the plan
The disposition of real estate, reduction of other assets to cash, dispersal of ongoing obligations, census of schoolchildren and their redistribution among other local or county schools all that has to be done not just to satisfy the town, but to satisfy the distant and upward judge under whose permission Cary Plantation originally organized in 1836 and whose permission is needed to deorganize it 180 years later. Such permission is no rubber stamp:
October, 2013: Dover-Foxcroft, Maine The state commission charged with creating a deorganization plan for the town of Atkinson made several changes to the document at a lengthy public meeting held at the Piscataquis County Courthouse on Sept.
30. Once the new draft is completed, the paperwork will be forwarded to the town of Atkinson and the clock starts ticking again.
At the time of that story, Atkinson s deorganization plan had been under review, and periodic evolving amendment, for nine years and as I write this, it is still not approved. The reasons become more apparent as one reads the objections:
Don t send any bills their way
Changes approved in the deorganization plan, which was originally written in February, clarify some of the financial liabilities and responsibilities of the town if they decide to disband their local government. While the original plan included language that required that funds be put into escrow to take care of roads, bridges, salt sheds and the town s share of the Dover-Foxcroft landfill costs, committee member Tom Walker Acting Supervisor of Municipal Services of Maine Revenue Service explained that it couldn t legally be done.
Deorganization is complete dissolution, and the entity shuffling off this political coil must have no potential for recall to life.
After the Atkinson Board of Selectmen has the new deorganization plan, they have to convene a public hearing and then hold a special town meeting between 14 and 30 days after the hearing, according to commission chair Marcia McInnis, who is also the fiscal administrator for Maine s unorganized territories.
At some point, the repeated delays, amendments, reviews, and procedures give the deorganization a life of its own (again, shades of Jarndyce), and the original purpose seems buried under the pyramid of writs.
The pyramid is part of the scheme
If the plan is accepted, the next step is to request that a bill be submitted for the second session of the Maine Legislature which begins in January.
But since it won t be a bill carried over from the regular session, it has to be approved as emergency legislation by the Legislative Council, which consists of the 10 elected members of legislative leadership.
State Sen. Doug Thomas, who was at the meeting, said that there s no guarantee the council will accept it, either. They may decide that it s not an emergency, Thomas said.
This is something that s been going on for quite awhile. 19
Keenly judging whether it s an emergency: (now former) State Senator Douglas Thomas
While many town issues stay within the town s borders, at least one has implications throughout the county and state: ground transportation infrastructure.
Another issue to be studied further by the commission, county and Atkinson officials is the status of some roads and bridges.
These arguments can seem petty or arcane but really, what is a road, versus a track or a driveway?
That s a road all right
Before you answer, bear in mind that in the context of a deorganization, a road is a liability, not an asset.
Is this a road?
AHI posts on municipal expansion, reconstitution, and contraction
November 9, 2011: The un-building of un-growing cities, 3 parts: Demolitions Cleveland23
November 30, 2015: Fine for you but not fine for me, 15 parts: Pagedale, Missouri27
McCorrison Road over Alder Stream
While a portion of Dyer Road is listed as seasonal, town officials say that it s open year-round. McCorrison bridge has been blocked by the Maine Department of Transportation for more than a year, but local residents reportedly removed the barricades and are now using it.28
McCorrison Bridge, photographed unblocked
While responsibility for road maintenance would fall on the county if the deorganization plan goes through, McInnis emphasized that the county is under no obligation to accept a road or a bridge. It s their discretion.
All the certifications and inspections have to be up to date:
Bernier used the example of Bancroft, which recently deorganized.
That community had to spend about $75,000 to bring a road up to acceptable conditions.
Any roads he deems insufficient would have to be repaired before the transition can take place.
Paul (at left) putting the Bernier calipers on the petition
As with so many other things in life, once the decision is made, twere best done quickly, and this is a prime example: roads deteriorate over the course of Maine winters, and if they are all up to snuff by one fall, they may not be the following spring.
Cary Plantation has 13.5 miles of town-owned roads, with 10 miles plowed in the winter.
Somehow, eventually, the state says Yes, and then there s one final vote:
If the state approves the plan, Oxbow will have to vote again in the November 2016 general election.
And life goes on.
Maine woodsman, 1886
4. Life after deorganization
Virtually everything AHI does is concerned with the consequences of urbanization and its drivers, economic development and population growth, so to me this has been a journey into an alternate universe, one where population isn t growing, the economy is largely unchanged, and the land is being de-urbanized.
Since 1980, as the state s rural north has shed jobs and population, nine towns have dissolved their governments to join Maine s unorganized territories 10 million acres that cover about half the state and are administered from Augusta, the capital. In that time, the population of the territories has grown from 5,525 to about 8,000.
Though rare, it s the logical byproduct of all that urbanization gravity: as Bangor, Augusta, and Portland grow, Atkinson, Bancroft, Cary Plantation, Centerville, and Oxbow will shrink.
The bicolored line means the road s a secondary highway (at best)
Marcia McInnis, the fiscal administrator for the Unorganized Territory, estimated there have been 41 deorganizations in Maine s history, about half of them during the Great Depression.
There won t be too many more such deorganizations Aroostook County has only 70,000 people in total, and much of the county is already Unorganized Territory
Paul Bernier, public works director for Aroostook County, said residents would see little change in services provided by making the transition. Bernier said every effort would be made to continue negotiating with the individuals or towns that provide such services as fire protection, ambulance and snow removal.
As in Pagedale, the residents will be better off once they give up purely local control over everything but unlike Pagedale, where the mayor and alderpeople cling to power, the rural Mainers are perfectly ready to give it up.34
Citing water problems, Atkinson s white-clapboard town hall is open for business just eight hours a week, according to a sign on the front door that lists the town clerk s phone number for urgent business.
Perhaps that has something to do with the difference between urban and rural lifestyles.
Whether or not the area attracts more residents, Steve Sherman said Oxbow will still be a small community in the north woods.
We just won t have any local government.
In the woods, most of the time you re on your own anyhow.
Grilling hotdogs while ice fishing, Skowhegan, Maine
I don t mind driving a few extra miles to pick up a fishing license. About the only thing that ll change is the name.
Snows, saws, and laws, all in a one-stop shop
About all a woodsman needs a vehicle, a chainsaw to clear timber, and gas to power them both.
People here are still working in forestry, farming and outdoor guiding, with a number of lodge and guiding businesses around the town and the vast North Maine Woods beyond its borders. The town is aging, though, and some residents are looking to younger generations who may settle.
Almon Currier, owner of Umcolcus Sporting Camps, is heading into retirement and selling the lodging and cabin business. We feel it s time for a younger generation with more energy to continue the tradition, Currier wrote on the Umcolcus website.36
Out in the woods
We re fewer in numbers all the time, and the break in the taxation is going to be a big help, Currier said at the meeting.
Every journey has an end.
There s privacy, and it s so quiet, said Ms.
Libby, 51. We want to stay here. And to do that, it needs to be affordable for us to stay here.
Dark and deep
And miles to go before I sleep
- ^ Part 8 (affordablehousinginstitute.org)
- ^ Part 1 (affordablehousinginstitute.org)
- ^ Part 2 (affordablehousinginstitute.org)
- ^ Part 3 (affordablehousinginstitute.org)
- ^ Part 4 (affordablehousinginstitute.org)
- ^ Part 5 (affordablehousinginstitute.org)
- ^ Part 6 (affordablehousinginstitute.org)
- ^ Part 7 (affordablehousinginstitute.org)
- ^ David A.
- ^ Washington Post (March 28, 2004 (www.washingtonpost.com)
- ^ Bangor Daily News (October 2, 2013 (bangordailynews.com)
- ^ Bangor Daily News (July 31, 2015 (bangordailynews.com)
- ^ Bangor Daily News (November 27, 2015 (bangordailynews.com)
- ^ The New York Times (January 16, 2016) (ahi-dc)
- ^ Wikipedia, Bancroft, Maine (accessed February 21, 2016 (en.wikipedia.org)
- ^ Atkinson has voted on deorganization three times (bangordailynews.com)
- ^ Dover-Foxcroft (dover-foxcroft.org)
- ^ Tom Walker [Acting Supervisor of Municipal Services (www.maine.gov)
- ^ State Sen.
- ^ May 25, 2007: As a town dies (affordablehousinginstitute.org)
- ^ August 13, 2007: Cities and scale (affordablehousinginstitute.org)
- ^ May 12, 2008: Too many houses (affordablehousinginstitute.org)
- ^ November 9, 2011: The un-building of un-growing cities (affordablehousinginstitute.org)
- ^ February 8, 2012: Grids city, scalable city (affordablehousinginstitute.org)
- ^ December 31, 2013: Sub-cities? (affordablehousinginstitute.org)
- ^ April 13, 2015: A tale of two cities (affordablehousinginstitute.org)
- ^ November 30, 2015: Fine for you but not fine for me (affordablehousinginstitute.org)
- ^ McCorrison bridge has been blocked (archive.bangordailynews.com)
- ^ In 2006, residents of Atkinson voted 15-12 (archive.bangordailynews.com)
- ^ public works director for Aroostook County (www.aroostook.me.us)
- ^ 41 other Maine towns (www.google.com)
- ^ Marcia McInnis (www.ellsworthamerican.com)
- ^ fiscal administrator for the Unorganized Territory (www.maine.gov)
- ^ where the mayor and alderpeople cling to power (affordablehousinginstitute.org)
- ^ gas station and chainsaw shop (snow-s-saw-shop.atkinson.me.amfibi.directory)
- ^ Umcolcus Sporting Camps (www.google.com)