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Struggling town votes to end itself

Struggling town votes to end itself

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CENTERVILLE, Maine — Just 10 residents showed up at town hall Monday night, raising hands dutifully and in unanimity as the business of killing off their town got under way.

The nine town hall benches, it was agreed, would be sold for $10 apiece. A sum of $1,670.82 would be paid to sever the ambulance service contract. The town hall would be put up for sale; its flag with a gold-painted staff given to Philip Gaudette, the town's oldest resident at 70.

And when all was settled and mathematically divided, it fell, as it usually has, to Sue Dorsey to say a little something.

‘‘Just because we won't be official anymore, we will still be the town of Centerville,'' said Dorsey, who serves as first selectwoman, first overseer, first assessor, and school board member. ‘‘It's the people, not the property that makes the town.''

Such is the end of a town, 162 years old, with a history dating to the settlement of the wilds of Northern Maine, but now with just 25 residents and none willing to hold office and keep government going.

Centerville, an outpost of blueberry barrens and weathered homesteads 70 miles east of Bangor, is one of a growing number of Maine municipalities — many remote and dwindling in population — that are disbanding and opting to become a part of Maine's unorganized territory, which is overseen and managed by the state.

The move is striking, some say, because it runs counter to core Yankee values of self-reliance and local control. But it also highlights the growing division in Maine between wealthy coastal and southern towns thriving with healthy tax bases, and the inland and northern towns struggling for survival.

‘‘As towns become deorganized, it contributes to a sense of cultural and economic imbalance in the state as a whole,'' said Kent Ryden, a professor of American and New England studies at the University of Southern Maine. ‘‘That not all Mainers are equal any more.''


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