READFIELD — The now-defunct Public Works Department will be back on the ballot in September.

Residents who support reinstating the department gathered more than enough signatures to prompt a new referendum that could overturn the vote in June in which residents abolished the department by a margin of four votes.

Supporters needed 131 signatures to force a revote.

The new vote will be Sept. 14, to be preceded by a public hearing Aug. 31.

A special town meeting is scheduled Sept. 15 to deal with the outcome of the Sept. 14 referendum. The town will prepare two sets of warrant articles to appropriate funds — either for a reborn department or for hiring private contractors, Town Manager Stefan Pakulski said.

Meanwhile, the town’s Roads Committee met Thursday to create a snowplowing contract so the town can solicit bids.

Backers of the successful vote to eliminate the Public Works Department believe the new referendum — and an audit commissioned by selectmen to compare the department’s cost with the cost to solicit services from contractors — is drawing out the issue needlessly, resident Bill Brown said.

“The majority opinion has not changed. We don’t think that having another vote on this issue is productive for Readfield as a town,” Brown said. “We have felt all along that the June 7 referendum vote as passed should have been acted upon. We felt that delaying this any further is just going to create more division in the town.”

Brown is a member of Readfield 424 — a group of Readfield residents who supported the June 7 vote to disband the Public Works Department. The name is a reference to the number of votes the narrow majority garnered to approve the referendum abolishing the department.

Supporters of the first referendum said the town would save hundreds of thousands of dollars by bidding public works functions out to private contractors.

Readfield 424 briefly retained Hallowell lawyer Newell Augur to provide legal advice and to speak on their behalf at the most recent meeting of selectmen, Brown said.

Brown called the audit “flawed at best” and said it will not take into account long-term costs such as workers’ compensation insurance and retirement benefits.

“The long-term costs associated with this public works and the bureaucracy that surrounds it are simply too expensive,” he said. “It seems to us that contracting services will be less costly.”

Selectmen commissioned the Portland accounting firm Purdy Powers & Co. to perform the analysis. The town will pay $4,900 to the firm from the public works carry-forward account.

The analysis is due Aug. 12.

Resident Lee Sandler, who initiated the petition for the new referendum, said the results of the audit will guide his vote in September.

He said he hopes everyone will pay attention to the report, even those who supported abolishing the department.

“They have a staunch, supportive group,” Sandler said of Readfield 424. “They’re passionate about what they want. I hope they will be courteous enough to at least listen and intelligent enough to allow their minds to make an intelligent decision.”

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

[email protected]

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