Public hearing yet to be scheduled

HARPSWELL — A bill asking the state to revisit a 1998 border agreement between Harpswell and Brunswick was referred to a committee by the state Legislature last week. But so far that committee has yet to schedule a public hearing on the matter. 

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Leila Percy, D-Phippsburg, who submitted the legislation at the request of Town Meeting voters. The dispute is over an intertidal area near Route 123 that contains hundreds of acres of clam flats. 

Last summer a Harpswell group known as the Carrying Place Assembly said it had irrefutable evidence that the 1998 decision settling the disagreement was erroneous. On March 14, Town Meeting voted 92-61 to ask the Legislature to review its decision. However, an overwhelming majority also rejected funding the effort, which opponents argue will incur significant  legal costs – a factor that prompted the two towns to reach the 1998 compromise.

Last week, LD 1410 was referred to the committee on State and Local Government. According to the Legislature’s public hearing schedule, the committee will not review the bill before April 24. 

So far, the area’s State House delegation has had a tepid response to the bill, which may be evidence of the Legislature’s overall reluctance to scrutinize, and potentially overturn, a previous body’s decision. 

Percy has reportedly said she has not formed an opinion on the issue and that she only submitted the bill at the request of her constituents. Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, whose district includes Harpswell, has said that he’s seen no compelling evidence to overturn the decision. 

“You pretty much have to show fraud to overturn this kind of thing,” Gerzofsky said recently. “I
didn’t see anything like that in (the evidence). I think they have a
pretty steep hill to climb to get this back into the Legislature.”

The response from Brunswick has been even chillier. In March the Brunswick Town Council unanimously voted to endorse the 1998 agreement. Last week, the council turned down an offer from the Harpswell Board of Selectmen to discuss the issue. 

The timing of the bill’s submission, and the State and Local Government Committee schedule, could determine if it even reaches a public hearing.

The legislative session is scheduled to end by the middle of June. Bills must emerge from a committee three days before the end of the session. Otherwise they die in committee and must be reintroduced in the next session.

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or [email protected].
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