Selectman informally queries residents on de-organizing Upton
Citing the continued purchase of property by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the difficulty in finding people to serve in leadership roles, Upton Selectman Bob Pepler has recently been informally surveying residents on whether the town should de-organize.
Upton has fewer than 100 year-round residents. It has been plagued in recent years with difficult political issues.
The buy-up of private properties to add to the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge is one of them. Some residents worry that because such land can no longer be taxed by the town, other property owners’ taxes will increase as the tax base shrinks.
“With the tax base eroding, I don’t see the future being bright,” Pepler said recently when he was contacted by the Citizen.
There have also been issues among town officials over such topics as a town revaluation, and procedures related to town office business and the calling of a town meeting. Two selectmen have resigned in recent months.
“A lot of good people don’t want to run [for office],” said Pepler, who himself has only been in office a few months.
As a result of an illegal notification for a special town meeting called to elect a selectman, the person elected at that meeting is not serving on the three-person board.
Pepler said he has been asking residents what they think of the idea of the town becoming an unorganized territory. Municipal services would then be provided through Oxford County and the state.
Opinion in Upton, he said "is about 50/50” among people he has asked.
Pepler said he had also contacted the Maine Municipal Association and Oxford County about the idea.
“They said it’s a difficult proposition,” he said.
He compared the process to one currently happening in Andover, where a committee in that town is preparing a plan to possibly withdraw from SAD 44.
To disband the town, said Pepler, would require a town vote as well as approval from the state.
“MMA said there are a lot of hoops to jump through,” he said.
There is also the question of whether the current financial situation makes it advisable to disband. Pepler said estimates from the county are that the Upton mil rate would rise from the current 6.3 mils to about 9.
Upton celebrated its sesquicentennial in 2010.