When your voices are not heard, you can’t become silent.

A recent KITTERY CITIZENS CONCERNED ABOUT CHLORAMINES group petitioned to put a NON BINDING referendum on the Town Ballot in November failed. Let me start by thanking those who tried to accomplish this. Those who spent a tireless effort to garner signatures, educate the public and amass a following to make change to policy.

To begin with, it is my opinion that very competent people manage the Kittery Water District and I have known many of them for years. After it made the public news, people began to ask questions about the reasons for the Chloramine being added to Kittery Water.

Spirited debates and lectures and speaking events and a local Water District which is not tied to the Town, seemed to place themselves in the cross hairs of angry customers and yet met with the public, altered their course and for now, stopped the plan to introduce Chloramines to the Kittery Water.

Myself, Councilor Chuck Denault and Chairperson Judith Spiller attended the Regatta Event on Chloramines. I attended the other meetings as well with Councilor Clark and Lemont.

On Monday night, July 9th, 2019 the citizen advocacy group came forward and they were registered voters of Kittery. They had concerns and many spoke at the podium. They looked at the councilors in the eyes and asked for their help. Excused absent from the meeting was Councilor Matthew Brock.

Kittery Resident Julia O’Connell presented a petition to the Town earlier in the week which made it onto the agenda in the correct method and now was before the Council for a vote to schedule a public hearing on putting it on the ballot.

After many Kittery Citizens speaking on this issue, It was voted on……………………It lost.  3 to 3 the motion failed said Chairperson Judith Spiller. It was just to schedule a public hearing to listen to the public then decide whether to put it on the ballot or not.

NON BINDING, what does this mean? It means it is the tally of the vote with only the significant outcome being a count of who was for it and who was against it and those who chose not to vote. It serves to give guidance to a body to show what the wishes or feeling of a particular issue and it allows that body to see what the voter’s wishes are on the matter that was voted on. Yes they were shy of the 550 required signatures (30-A M.R.S.A Sec 2522 and 2528(5) to mandate the request so it was up to the council.

It has little cost associated with it since the ballot contains other issues to be voted on. The computer scans the ballots anyway and just picks up the referendum tally’s as it scan for all issues voted on the ballot. What does it hurt you ask?

In my opinion, it does not hurt anything and it allows the elected official to see where the majority sits on that particular issue and make a more informed choice. 

I have often been told that I am only one of seven. This may be true but I represent about 10,000 residents and making a decision that effects many people should be done with forethought and being cautious to make the right decision. If it does not hurt to ask the public for guidance on a matter, then why not ask?

The reasons that were given by the Citizen Advocacy Group was that the water does affect everyone, from people on well water, and those who use bottle water and do not get their water from the Kittery Water Department. The people on well water may have kids in school, drink from water fountains at the Town Hall or eat at local restaurant’s, watering the football fields, the run off replenishes the water supplies such as back to the ground and back to the wells. Connecting the dots between not being a customer of the KWD and having connect with water from the KWD is a straight line. Being oblivious of this fact could cause a decision to be skewed.

During the meeting, a counselor suggested that people who are not on the water would skew the vote. Those who are not customers should not vote. One would have to watch the council reruns to hear these quotes verbatim and their reasoning of not supporting a public hearing.

I wonder why we did not listen to the residents on Monday night and yet we when did exactly this when we looked at the BIG Pier project, the Master Plan on Fields, The Community Center in the village, the marijuana issue and the renovation of the New Community Center. This list is endless. How many people voted for the BIG PROJECT (the piers) who never have used or stepped foot on them. How many voters use the football/ baseball/soccer/lacrosse fields and how many people use the Community Center? How many people who were not users of the sewer voted to stick the bill on the 165 residents on the west end of Kittery. How many people voted for marijuana and will never smoke it?

How about when we wanted to close schools in Kittery and educate our kids elsewhere? Did we segregate the town and say only people who have kids in schools can vote?

Yes, Councilors are elected to make decisions but when it comes to big issues or the safety of our citizens and even with things we have no control over, we, as a Council should look to our citizens for guidance. It does not have to be from just those at the podium who had the guts to look us in the eye and give us their opinion.

In my opinion, we as a Community support ideas from all residents. Yes, it was stated that we do not have any control of the Water District. That is a correct statement and I support that statement. But a non-binding referendum not only shows the Town Councilors how the citizens feel on the matter, but it lets the Water District know the public sentiment at the highest possible level. The Voice of the people.

Are all the facts in on Chloramines, I cannot answer that. As with any issues, there a professionals, professors and scientists who can argue either way for the person who is paying them? In this case, I feel the jury is still out. However, if one cannot definitively say that Chloramines are good or bad, then we as a community should make sure we do everything possible to ensure it stays in front of the public. Whatever the feeling is of the community should be displayed and we ensure those who need to know it, know it and we as a community maintain a watchful eye should it circle back.

The wisdom shown by the KWD should be applauded. Superintendent Michael Rogers made tough choices and by all accounts, he listened and heard the concerns of their customers and along with the Board of Trustees made a decision to stop.

On Monday night, I spiritedly and respectfully defended the group’s position and the voices of the almost 500 petitioners. Again it was just to schedule a public hearing.

Let me recap, I made the motion and Councilor Thomson second it for debate. (Many thanks to Councilor Thomson for at least giving me a second for discussion).

Three or four times, I reminded the Council that we work for the people and they are speaking with this petition. Their petition was a request for a non-binding referendum for something we had no control over. But do we? Do we have a public hearing and then decide to allow this non-binding referendum to go to the public for a question, A non-binding question? It does not hurt anything and would it have sent a message either way, win, lose or draw, and the public at least has a chance to do something. It may be a model for other communities to see how the people have a voice.

Is the concerns and safety of the public deminimis to some of the councilors since it may be skewed by voters who are not KWD customers. I wondered, does personal feelings dictate our vote and not the will of the public? Are we listening?

My concern is when we look like ostriches and stick our head in the sand and hope it goes away we are not trying.

I’ll be criticized for trying to do what is right but that’s who I am. Almost 500 people signed the petition and that usually half of the people who show up during Town elections. Did someone tell them when they started don’t bother, I wonder what would have happened then?

I voted YES to schedule a public hearing. Councilor Jeff Pelletier and Cyrus Clark both voted YES. Councilors Judy Spiller, Ken Lemont and Jeff Thomson voted not to, (NO). Perhaps those three who voted No will pause and listen to the citizens and reflect on their positions and revisit the concerns of these voters and make a motion to reconsider their vote and bring it back up for a FULL COUNCIL VOTE (remember Councilor Brock was not present).

Here are the emails address and phone numbers for all the Councilors. Perhaps the three Councilors, who voted NO, can make a motion to reconsider their votes. Perhaps you can let us know how you feel.

Perhaps you could ask for their support and ask them to make a motion to reconsider and echo the words of Councilor Jeffery Thomson, “DO THE RIGHT THING”. Share your thoughts; after all we work for you.

After all it was a only motion to schedule a public hearing.

Judy Spiller Chair VOTED NO 207-439-0637
Matt Brock Vice Chair NOT PRESENT 207-752-2223
Charles Denault VOTED YES 207-439-4718
Kenneth Lemont VOTED NO 207-439-3698
Jeffrey D. Thomson VOTED NO 207-752-1313
Jeffrey Pelletier VOTED YES 207-703-8842
Cyrus Clark VOTED YES 603-205-9860

Here is the link for the petition and the names of those who signed. This was in our council packages and is official. Feel free to read it.

Kittery GROUP Chloramine Petition. ON Pages 39 to 68.

References

§2522. Petition for article in warrant

On the written petition of a number of voters equal to at least 10% of the number of votes cast in the town at the last gubernatorial election, but in no case less than 10, the municipal officers shall either insert a particular article in the next warrant issued or shall within 60 days call a special town meeting for its consideration.

§2528. Secret ballot