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Cary residents pass final deorganization vote

CARY PLANTATION, Maine — It is official: Cary Plantation will be no more starting June 30, 2019.

Residents of the tiny community voted 105-4 Tuesday to dissolve their town and become an unorganized territory. The 105 votes in favor of the plan were nearly three times the amount needed for it to pass. Two-thirds of the residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election, or 32 voters, were all that were needed to approve the deorganization plan.

“We were really nervous,” said Tina Libby, chairman of the deorganization committee. “There had been some talk around town that they didn’t think this (vote) would go through. I think there were some people in town who had a personal connection (to the town’s creation) and there were others who owe a lot of back taxes and are afraid they will lose their property.”

Tuesday’s vote brings an end to a nearly three-year process by residents to dissolve their town. Cary’s first attempt to deorganize was rejected by the state back in March 2016.  The town’s second attempt to deorganize began in May 2017.

Libby said the town’s next step is to send certified letters with the results to Maine’s Secretary of State, the Unorganized Territory fiscal administrator, and the Aroostook County Commissioners.

After that, Libby said she will start the process of organizing all of the documents that need to be sent along to the Unorganized Territory leadership.

With the approval of the measure, Cary Plantation must now liquidate its assets and account for its debts before becoming “Cary Township” and joining the state’s Unorganized Territory.

According to Libby, those assets are few and involve only a small storage building and a piece of tax-acquired property. Residents will vote at the March 2019 town meeting on how to dispose of those properties.

One of the biggest issues that should be resolved is the large amount of unpaid taxes in the town. According to the 2018 town report, delinquent taxes for 2017 totaled $58,133. But so far this year, Libby said people have been much quicker to pay their tax bills.

“The UT works a lot faster than we do as far as foreclosing,” Libby said.

Residents of Cary, which has a population of 189, sought to dissolve because of the town’s dwindling numbers and increasing municipal costs.

When former Rep. Roger Sherman, R-Hodgdon, testified in February in favor of the bill he sponsored on behalf of Cary Plantation residents, he said they were paying a tax rate of $30 per $1,000 of valuation.

Residents of the UT in Aroostook County rely on the County and state for public services and were assessed a $6.47 mill rate in 2016.

Cary has 13 miles of roads for winter plowing and summer maintenance, which will be handled by the County after June 30, 2019.

“It’s so nice to have this over,” Libby said. “The kids will all go to the same school and things will basically stay the same.”

In the last 100 years, 49 communities in Maine — many of them faced with rising property taxes and dwindling populations that no longer could afford local government — have ceased to be towns. Cary Plantation is now the 50th community to disband and the fifth such town since 2000.

Prior to Cary, the last town to dissolve was Oxbow Plantation, which officially deorganized in June 2015, ending a three-year process.

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