WATERVILLE — City councilors on Tuesday voted 7-0 to certify election results that show voters approved a plastic bag ban on Nov. 6, at the same time opponents of the ban plan to ask a city appeals board to look at 75 voters whose ballots were challenged.

Meanwhile, Councilor Winifred Tate, D-Ward, 6, asked how much money the bag ban challenge has cost the city so far in legal fees. Brian Ward, an attorney representing City Solicitor William A. Lee III’s office, said about $9,500 has been spent so far and while it is hard to predict, it could cost another $5,000 to $10,000.

Tate said the city could be looking at a total of about $20,000 in legal fees.

As part of the councilors’ vote Tuesday, they certified that the bag ban referendum result is 3,046-2,927 in favor of the ban, with 65 blanks, 20 removed and five disputed.

About 50 people turned out for the meeting, held in the Chace Community Forum at the Bill & Joan Waterville.

The bag ban would apply to stores that are 10,000 square feet or larger, including Walmart, Shaw’s Supermarket, Hannaford, Save-A-Lot and JC Penney.

Lee suggested last week that the council could pass another amendment to the bag ban ordinance that would delay its implementation until September, after the voting issue has been resolved. He suggested that the council could take the first vote to delay on April 2 and the final vote on April 16.

Bag ban opponents took the issue to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which dismissed the case and determined the ballots are no longer challenged because opponents failed to file paperwork requested by the court.

But on Thursday, those opponents filed an appeal with the Waterville Voter Registration Appeals Board, asking it to look at 75 voters whose ballots were challenged. Most of those voters are Colby College students.

Lee said Friday, however, that the filing does not state adequately the specific basis for the appeal, and that one of the signers, Mark Andre, of Oakland, has no legal standing to appeal because he does not live in Waterville. Lee said if they want to appeal, they must send another request that contains more specific information and does not contain Andre’s signature. The appeal also is signed by Cathy Weeks of Mt. Pleasant Street and Shaun Caron of Roosevelt Avenue.

Lee said they must file that before the city could start going through the process of setting up hearings. He said if they do file an appeal, the city could start scheduling hearings with the appeals board. The bag ban was to go into effect April 22.

Andre attended Tuesday’s council meeting and approached the microphone, asking Ward, the attorney, about the court order filed in the bag ban.

When Andre started to speak, Tate asked for a point of order.

“Mark, are you a resident of Waterville?” she asked.

“Excuse me?” Andre replied.

“Are you a resident of Waterville?” Tate asked again.

“Do you have reason to believe I’m not?” he retorted.

Tate said she did have reason to believe he was not a resident. To that, Andre said: “I have a residence in Waterville.”

“I have been told by the city attorney that you do not have legal standing to comment in this case,” Tate said.

Mayor Nick Isgro asked Andre the address of the residence he owns in Waterville.

“Two-twenty-nine County Road,” Andre said. “My mailing address is in Oakland. I haven’t changed that.”

After a discussion about the number of votes challenged and what has been done to verifiy them, Councilor Meg Smith, D-Ward 3, asked Andre if he voted in the November election. He said that he voted in Oakland.

“I’m still curious as to why you have a voice in Waterville,” Smith replied.

Meanwhile, Tate thanked Patti Dubois, the city’s clerk and registrar of voters, for the “hundreds of hours” she spent working to verify challenged votes.

Dubois has the final say on validity of voter registrations. She said Friday that she gave the appeal from Andre, Caron and Weeks to Appeals Board Chairman Roland Hallee on Thursday. His appeals board, which includes Kim Lane, a Democratic representative, and Roger Collins, the Republican representative, would hold hearings with voters whose ballots are being challenged. Hallee also is election warden for the city.

The appeals board could end up holding 75 separate hearings, one for each voter whose ballot is being challenged, but Lee said he might be able to combine some hearings.

The resolution councilors approved  Tuesday says 165 voters were challenged at the Nov. 6 election, and the initial count showed the bag ban passed by 146 votes. A recount was requested, and that recount took place Nov. 16. Without counting the challenged ballots, the bag ban failed by seven votes. Since there were enough challenged ballots to affect the outcome of the election, the Supreme Judicial Court was asked to decide their status.

Questions about the qualifications of 77 of the 165 challenged voters have been resolved through a registrar’s hearing or through further investigation by the registrar, according to the resolution. “Since the challengers failed to file a formal complaint for the Supreme Court to invoke its jurisdiction to determine the results of the election, the Court has concluded that the ballots are no longer challenged and should be included in the ballot count,” it says.

Eighty-eight of the challenged voters whose residence questions were not resolved through hearings were investigated further and compared to last semester’s residence records in the office of Colby’s dean of students. Of those, 68 were determined to meet the residency requirements and 20 were not, according to the resolution.

 

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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