The city of Belfast and the five remaining former School Administrative District (SAD) 34 towns exploring the possibility of leaving Regional School Unit (RSU) 20 may have to approach the matter separately when it comes to pitching a withdrawal proposal to the RSU.

That topic came up at the regular RSU 20 Board of Directors meeting Tuesday night, Feb. 26, during a discussion regarding the ongoing process of examining the withdrawal proposal for Belfast.

RSU 20 Superintendent Brian Carpenter said the Belfast proposal is moving back and forth between the district's attorney, Dick Spencer, of Drummond and Woodsum, and the attorney for the city's withdrawal committee, Kristin Collins. The most recent development, Carpenter said, is a proposed amendment specifying that the city would acquire the number of buses and vehicles that reflects what the city contributed as part of the former SAD 34.

Carpenter said that's because in the initial proposal, all of the buses and vehicles that were formerly under SAD 34 ownership would have gone to the city, leaving the remaining five towns to negotiate with Belfast to acquire vehicles of the former district.

"We're not dealing with [the former] 34, we're dealing with Belfast," Carpenter said.

Carpenter said as of Tuesday night he had not seen any new proposals or a counter-proposal from the Belfast committee or its attorney.

Carpenter also stated he had not seen a withdrawal proposal from any of the remaining five towns of the former SAD, a comment that led to questions from Director Alexa Schweikert of Swanville.

"Why do you say that?" she said, noting that residents in Swanville and in the other five towns had voted to begin the process of exploring leaving the RSU.

"All six towns must provide a proposal to withdraw," said Carpenter.

Director Stephanie Wade asked if the RSU had informed the other towns that each must submit an individual plan, and Carpenter said, "We have done that many times."

Schweikert, a member of the committee charged with exploring withdrawal in Swanville, said Collins drew up six different proposals, but Carpenter said no representatives of the five remaining towns have come forward to formally present those proposals to the district.

Director Tony Swebilius of Morrill, who is a member of his town's withdrawal committee, said during meetings of the super-committee — which includes representatives of all six towns — Collins had discussed withdrawal as it related to all of the towns exploring the option. He said the procedural details like whether towns can or should submit joint or individual proposals should be something the lawyers discuss regularly.

"There should be clear communication happening between the attorneys," said Swebilius.

"There's been a lot of communication," said RSU 20 Board Chairman Tony Bagley. "I've got the bill right in front of me."

Director Valerie Mank, who sits on the withdrawal committee for her hometown of Searsmont, said when representatives of her town contacted Collins to obtain advice about how Searsmont should approach the withdrawal, they were told she could not advise them because it was a conflict of interest.

"We're allowed to ask questions as part of the super-committee, but we were told we need to get our own lawyer to represent us," she said.

In response to an inquiry from Schweikert, Carpenter said Swanville — or any other town looking at withdrawal — should drop its proposal off at the central office for consideration.

"And I'll forward it to Dick Spencer," said Carpenter.

Bagley said there's been a lot of confusion surrounding the withdrawal issue, but the proposal from Belfast and eventually other proposals will be in the attorneys' hands. He and Carpenter are "just trying to keep everyone abreast" of what has been happening with the process recently.

Bagley also weighed in on why each town should retain its own legal representation.

"The small towns need to look out for themselves," said Bagley. "…That's why it's a single-town withdrawal."

Director Gerry Reid of Northport chimed in with what he described as a "half-question, half-statement" and characterized it as one that comes from a citizen of the RSU more than a director.

"I, too, am confused," said Reid. "I'm still waiting for the answer to the following question: Withdrawal is a good idea because…? If there is some educational benefit to withdrawal, I'd like to have a concise answer on that."