Like his colleagues, Orleans Selectman Cecil Newcomb wasn’t happy when bids to build the downtown sewer collection system and others for the treatment plant/disposal system came in $12 million over estimates. He cast the only vote against putting that sum into a June 20 town meeting article to make up the difference.
A second vote was required to put that request on the June 23 ballot for a debt exclusion. Again, Newcomb was the sole vote against, but this time it could have amounted to a veto. A two-thirds majority of the five-member board is required to put a debt exclusion for bonding on the ballot, and with only four members voting (Selectman David Currier recused himself), Newcomb’s vote was crucial.
Town Administrator John Kelly pointed out the problem. At that moment, it was up to Newcomb whether voters on either side of the question would get to decide the question at the ballot box. The decades-in-the-making project came down to one man and one vote.
In a democracy the power is in the people, not a single person. Newcomb changed his vote. “Thank you, Cecil,” Chairman Mark Mathison said. “It doesn’t mean you’re in favor of it. You’re just putting it on the ballot so voters can weigh in.”
It was a civics lesson worth remembering.