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November 8, 2018

Tiny Aroostook community votes to dissolve, join Unorganized Territory

The tiny Aroostook County community of Cary Plantation will soon be no more, after voters there on Tuesday overwhelmingly decided to disband the municipality.

Cary residents chose, 105-4, to dissolve the plantation and become part of Maine's Unorganized Territory, The County reported Wednesday. The 105 votes were three times the number required to pass the referendum.

Cary, population 189, is one of Maine's 34 plantations — loosely organized municipalities — but will be known as a township when the change takes affect on June 30, 2019.

The Unorganized Territory encompasses 429 townships, which have no incorporated municipal government. Instead, the state Legislature serves as the local governing body; local services and taxes are administered by state and county agencies.

Cary residents began the complex, multi-step process of dissolving their government in 2016, in response to a shrinking population and rising municipal costs. The plantation's property tax rate is about $30 per $1,000 of valuation, according to The County. The current rate for Unorganized Territory residents in Aroostook County is $7.05.

But state lawmakers rejected Cary's first dissolution attempt, citing an inadequate financial analysis and concern that other communities might take similar action and unfairly burden the Unorganized Territory.

"If successful, Cary Plantation will be the largest municipality to deorganize in the state of Maine, and its success will encourage larger and larger communities to deorganize," Marcia McInnis, the state's fiscal administrator for the UT, testified at the time.

Cary began the process again in May 2017. Now that voters have approved, the plantation will transfer documents to the Unorganized Territory, settle outstanding bills, and liquidate municipal assets—which consist of a small storage building and a tax-acquired property, according to The County.

Over the last 100 years, 49 other Maine communities have disbanded, and Cary will be the fifth to do so since 2000. The most recent was Oxbow Plantation, which has a population of about 50 and dissolved in 2015.

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