THE WATER TOWER has been unused since at least 1992, when the Navy shut down its fuel depot operations at Mitchell Field in west Harpswell. When the town took possession of the site from the Navy in 2001, it came with the water tower — originally installed in the 1950s — and a pier that is now being demolished. NATHAN STROUT / THE TIMES RECORD


Cumberland Superior Court Justice A. M. Horton ruled against the Friends of Mitchell Field in their lawsuit against the town of Harpswell Wednesday afternoon, potentially clearing the way for the Mitchell Field water tower’s demolition.

The ruling is the most recent development in a months long battle between the Friends of Mitchell Field and the town over the fate of the water tower. While Harpswell voters opted to have the tower demolished at their annual town meeting in March, the Friends of Mitchell Field have worked tirelessly to force a revote, claiming that the original vote was tainted with misinformation.

In April, the group produced a petition calling for another vote which the selectmen ultimately denied. The group has argued that the selectmen were wrong to deny a petition with valid signatures, and went ahead with organizing their own unauthorized town meeting. The town’s attorney claimed that the warrant for that town meeting was invalid, and shortly thereafter the Friends of Mitchell Field filed a lawsuit against the town.

In ruling in the town’s favor, Horton stated that Harpswell selectmen did not act unreasonably in denying a petition from the Friends of Mitchell Field calling for a revote on whether to keep or demolish the water tower. The judge also ruled that the Friends of Mitchell Field’s warrant for a town meeting did not comply with Maine law and was not valid.

“We’re very pleased with the decision,” said Harpswell Town Attorney Amy Tchao. “I think it vindicated the town’s handling of this matter and I think the court saw that the town acted fairly in dealing with the petitioners’ request from start to finish.”

This story will be updated.

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