Residents in Searsport and Stockton Springs have gathered enough signatures to allow town officials to schedule a vote to officially start the withdrawal process from Regional School Unit 20.

As part of the withdrawal process, a petition signed by at least 10 percent of the voters who cast a ballot in the 2010 gubernatorial election must be submitted to the town. Once the signatures are received and verified, town officials are required to set a date to hold an election to determine whether residents wish to officially start the withdrawal process.

Officials in Searsport said residents were soliciting signatures over the weekend, but no petitions have been filed with the town as of the morning of Monday, Jan. 13.

Petitioners in Searsport needed to gather 122 valid signatures before an election date can be set to officially start the withdrawal process.

On Tuesday, Jan. 14, Town Clerk Deb Plourde said the town received enough signatures and the petitions would be presented to the board of selectmen at their next meeting on Jan. 21. Plourde said she anticipated the selectmen would set a date for the vote to determine if residents wish to officially start the withdrawal process during that meeting.

Stockton Springs Town Manager Rich Couch said Selectman Lesley Cosmano held an informational forum over the weekend to gauge the interest of residents in starting the withdrawal process. Couch said about 46 residents attended the informational gathering, as well as some residents from Searsport.

Cosmano told The Republican Journal that residents were “overwhelmingly” in favor of moving forward with the withdrawal efforts. She said several residents expressed interest in gathering signatures for the petitions.

Couch said based on election results from the 2010 gubernatorial election, petitioners needed to gather and submit 83 valid signatures before officials can set a date to hold a vote to officially begin the withdrawal process.

As of the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 14, town officials have verified 210 of the required 83 signatures. Like Searsport, Stockton Springs officials anticipated the petitions would be presented to the Board of Selectmen at their next regularly scheduled meeting to set an election date for residents to vote on officially starting the withdrawal process.

Currently, Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Northport and Searsmont have voted to pursue withdrawal from RSU 20. Swanville has received petitions to hold an election to start the withdrawal process and a vote is scheduled for Jan. 28.