STANDISH – Standish voters on Tuesday rejected a pair of sidewalk construction bonds and gave the thumbs up on a pair of term limits charter amendments, effectively ousting five councilors within the next two years.

The two successful charter amendments will collectively impose term limits on town councilors, school board directors and members of the town budget committee.

Question 3, a citizens’ petition that limits town councilors to a maximum of two consecutive three-year terms, passed in a 2,562-1,700 vote. As a result of the amendment, after serving either four successive years or two consecutive terms, councilors will have to wait three years in order to run again. The amendment does not impose a lifetime limit on council terms.

Question 4, which was put forward by longtime Councilor Phil Pomerleau and imposes similar limits for School Administrative District 6 board members and budget committee members, as well as town councilors, passed 2,446-1,826. Pomerleau’s amendment does not apply to members of the Planning Board, who are also elected in Standish.

According to Town Manager Gordon Billington, the term limits charter amendments, if left unchallenged, are set to force out councilors Pomerleau and Margaret Spencer in next year’s election, and keep them off the council for a minimum of three years. The following year, Michael Blanck, John Sargent, and Lynn Olson will be dispatched from the council, as well.

The failed sidewalk bonds – or Question 1 and Question 2 – would have authorized about $180,000 in spending on sidewalk construction projects in Standish Corner and Steep Falls. Both proposed sidewalk bonds were included in the bundled question that failed in a 540-711 vote at the June referendum.

Question 1, which would have approved $104,600 in bond principal toward matching funds for a sidewalk construction project in the Village Center, failed 2,069-2,226. The proposed sidewalk, which would have extended from the Colonial Marketplace intersection to the George E. Jack School and the Standish House of Pizza, emerged from the 2006 Comprehensive Plan, which recommended a pedestrian-friendly village.

Question 2, which would have approved $76,800 in bond principal toward a sidewalk project in Steep Falls, was defeated in a 1,745-2,578 vote. The proposed sidewalk would have been located on the northwest side of Route 11, and would have stretched from the Saco River Bridge toward the intersection with Route 113.

At the polls Tuesday, resident Anthony Folsom said his votes for both term limits charter amendments and his votes against both sidewalk bond questions reflected his disgust with the sitting municipal government.

“These people have certain agendas, whether they’re scratching their own backs or a friend’s back, and I just think they need new blood here,” Folsom said. “I think we need to start at the top and work our way down and get rid of almost all of them – that’s my opinion.”

Billington, who has been in his position for more than a decade, said the term limits-related votes indicates a crisis of confidence in the town government.

“The term limits is clearly a vote of non-confidence in the sitting council, and by inference I would take that as a vote of non-confidence in the governance of Standish,” he said. “What we don’t know are the reasons.”

“The five experienced councilors we’ve had on the council will be gone within a year and a half,” Billington added. “I will view that as very disruptive to the town. We will certainly deal with that.”

Billington said that the council ought to hold public hearings in coming months in order to gain a better grasp on the causes motivating the discontent.

The timing of the proposed charter amendments was no coincidence, according to Pomerleau, who ultimately campaigned against both term limits charter amendments. Pomerleau said he crafted his own term-limits proposal in response to the citizen-initiated proposal, which was spearheaded by Dan Kasprzyk, a key figure in the Standish Watchdog Group, an advocacy organization that has repeatedly criticized town government activities this year.

In Pomerleau’s view, the citizen-initiated term-limits proposal was nothing more than Kasprzyk’s disguised effort to oust him from office.

Pomerleau, who has served five terms on the council and does not plan to run next summer, said that if there are going to be term limits, they should apply to the other boards and committees that make budgetary decisions. Kasprzyk, Pomerleau said, happens to sit on one of those bodies, the School Administrative District 6 board of directors.

Todd Delaney, the chairman of the school board, said that Pomerleau’s term limits amendment “hurts our ability to negotiate contracts. It hurts our institutional memory. It’s not like people are chomping at the bit to be on the school board.”

“My concern is that he launched (Question) 4 as a way to show his displeasure with what was being done to the council,” Delaney added. “I think he was hoping that it had a negative impact on (Question) 3.”

Pomerleau, who spent $178 campaigning against both charter amendments, said he was disappointed that term limits had passed.

“I am obviously discouraged that we have term limits in Standish,” he said. “I feel bad that we had go that route. It is what it is, right?”

Yet Pomerleau said he had no regrets about putting forward Question 4.

“Everything that happened yesterday was because of Dan Kasprzyk, 100 percent,” he said Wednesday.

Kasprzyk said he saw the referenda results and high voter turnout as a message to the town government.

“The residents are telling the town, ‘You’ve got to start listening to us,’ and I think that’s huge,” Kasprzyk said.

But John Sargent, chairman of the council, connected the results to national political trends.

“I believe that many of the feelings on the votes in this election started in Washington,” Sargent said. “They were sick of gridlock, they were sick of incumbents. It was a very passionate election. People had very strong feelings, either for or against things.”


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