WINSLOW — Councilors voted unanimously at their meeting Monday evening to postpone a vote on ordering a special municipal election while it waits for the state’s high court to resolve a ballot dispute from November’s election.

The order that the council had planned to vote on would authorize a referendum on whether to dissolve Alternative Organizational Structure 92, which is slated for a vote in Waterville and Vassalboro on March 13. However, councilors said they did not want to authorize the referendum before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court can answer a legal question surrounding a recount conducted after last year’s Nov. 7 election.

Depending on what the court decides, the two measures can go before voters on the same day, which would save taxpayer’s money and possibly increase turnout for the special election.

As for the ballot dispute, a lawsuit was brought by Jerry Quirion, a sitting councilor representing District 3. During the regular election, Quirion, 71, was declared the winner over challenger Lee Trahan, 46, a member of the School Board, by a margin of three votes. Trahan then requested a recount, which ultimately resulted in a 173-173 tie.

Quirion, contesting that result, has targeted a ballot that was filled out sloppily. He filed a lawsuit, which was referred to the high court, in which he claims the sloppy ballot is invalid. If the court finds for Quirion, the decision would sway the election in his favor, making the possibility of a special election void. However, if the ballot is counted, the result will be validated as a tie and the town will need to hold a special election in order to declare a winner.

The council took their first vote on the order to authorize a special municipal election for the question of whether to dissolve the AOS at their Dec. 11 meeting. Language that would have included the unresolved council race on the ballot was stricken from the order also to allow for the court to resolve the issue first. At that point, the council believed that the court would have resolved the lawsuit by the second reading of the order, and the panel would be able to proceed with a vote, either adding the language about the council race onto the ballot or going ahead with only the dissolution of the AOS.

With the issue tabled, it could push back the vote on the AOS, making it so that both Vassalboro and Waterville vote on the matter before Winslow. According to Town Manager Mike Heavener, there has to be 30 days between the council’s vote on an issue and a special election, so that there is enough time to print the ballots. If the council does not vote to authorize a special election soon, the date would have to be pushed back.

Heavener said that it was not vital for all three communities to hold the vote on the AOS on the same day, and that if the council wanted to wait for the court’s decision on the council recount to make their decision, it would be all right.

However, the AOS 92 school board planned on all three communities voting on the same day so that the results of one community’s vote does not influence any of the others. Additionally, it would take only one community’s residents voting in the majority to dissolve the district.

Waterville and Vassalboro are scheduled to vote on that question on March 13. The polls will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Waterville voters will fill out their ballots at the junior high school, at 100 West River Road. The voters’ entrance will be on the side of the building where buses park.

Vassalboro residents will go to the Town Office.

The AOS 92 board voted at a special meeting Dec. 27 to approve a plan to dissolve the district and send that plan of termination to the state Department of Education, where it needs to be ratified so it can go before voters.

The AOS is moving to dissolve itself so it can pursue restructuring as a regional service center based in Waterville. The service center would handle some of the duties a superintendent’s office does, such as payroll and accounts payable. That could lead to financial incentives from the state, which says such a formation would maximize efficiency and reduce costs.

If the state Department of Education and a majority of voters in any one of the three towns that make up AOS 92 decide to terminate the AOS, Waterville and Winslow would likely hire their own superintendent and Vassalboro would hire a part-time superintendent.

If the communities are successful in forming a regional service center after the AOS is dissolved, they would continue sharing certain central office duties and other school functions.

The AOS dissolution would take effect June 30.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

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