Bowdoinham selectmen discuss a citizen’s petition Tuesday that calls for a town vote on purchasing the recycling barn from owner David Berry for $175,000. Screenshot

Bowdoinham selectmen voted 4-1 Tuesday to put a question on the June 9 town meeting warrant asking voters whether to purchase the recycling barn at 243 Post Road for $175,000 to refurbish it.

The selectmen put the question to voters as a result of a citizens’ petition that is asking the municipality to purchase the building from owner David Berry by Sept. 1.

According to Town Clerk Pam Ross, Berry was one of the people circulating the petition along with two family members and at least 11 other residents. The petition was submitted on April 12.

Board Chair David Engler said the board can either put the question to voters at the town’s annual town meeting warrant on June 9 or through a secret ballot referendum. The municipality is still working to determine how to safely hold an in-person town meeting amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Town Manager Nicole Briand told selectmen that while the town meeting offers more discussion on issues, the June referendum draws more voters.

“At most of our town meetings if we get 100 people we’re lucky,” Selectman Mark Favreau said, who noted the vote affects everyone in town. “We get more participation in my mind by the ballot.”

Other selectmen disagreed.

“I just assume have people be able to get up and express their opinions and make their case either way,” Selectman Tom Walling said. “We lose that with a paper ballot so I’d rather see it as an item on the warrant to be discussed and then voted on the participants at the town meeting.”

Selectman Peter Lewis was the lone dissenting vote on putting the question on the June 9 town meeting warrant, stating he doesn’t think the town should purchase the recycling barn.

The recycling barn has been at the center of debate in town about what the town’s future solid waste and recycling service should look like. The town had leased the building to house its solid waste and recycling operation for three decades before moving it to the public works department last fall.

This was due to structural issues with the barn raised by the state fire marshal’s office and an engineering firm the town hired to inspect the building.

Helen Watts, a structural engineer hired by Berry, told selectmen Tuesday that the building needs maintenance but said it is safe for people to be in the barn on the first floor between now and November.


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