ROCKPORT — It was not until one was requested that Rockport’s Select Board learned that, with all the authority it has, it does not have the power to grant underground utility easements on town property to private developers or power companies.

Caught by surprise — and with a developer and Central Maine Power waiting to move forward on a project — the board at its Oct. 11 session called a speedy special Town Meeting for Oct. 24 to resolve the matter as soon as possible by a vote of the people.

That’s when bureaucratic red tape apparently hit the fan.

On Oct. 21, as town officials worked to pull together the strings needed to hold the special town meeting they had already voted to schedule, and with the media awaiting the promised agenda packet for details about the applicant and plans, the whole thing was put on delay, sort of.

A glitch was announced at 4:36 pm on Friday Oct. 21 by town manager Jon Duke, three days before the originally scheduled Town Meeting set for 6 p.m. Monday Oct. 24.

“Due to procedural issues with the process of establishing Monday’s special Town Meeting, the Board will need to vote once again to approve a special Town Meeting warrant,” Duke announced in an Oct. 21 email.

A special Select Board meeting still will convene, remotely, at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 24 with the sole purpose of rescheduling the special Town Meeting, he said — but a date for the latter is not certain.

Duke explained, “The Select Board will meet Monday night at 6 p.m. via Zoom to vote on this revised warrant. Though the proposed warrant suggests a date and time of November 1 for the revised special town meeting, the date and time will be set at Monday’s meeting once the Select Board has had an opportunity to meet and discuss potential dates and times.”

Whenever that special Town Meeting happens, voters in attendance will decide whether the town should grant permission to the Select Board to issue underground and other utility easements on town land. If given the authority, the board is expected to immediately decide at the same meeting whether or not to grant an underground utility easement to the applicant and Central Maine Power Company.

This all began when the unnamed applicant approached the town for permission to bury utility lines and a utility vault on city land, not an everyday occurrence, according to Duke.

The lines would go under and along Central Street and the vault would be buried in or near a town parking lot. Exact plans have not been released by the town.

“It is not uncommon in Maine municipalities that you receive applications for pole placements or guy wires on utilities, that is kind of common, it is a practice you see all the time. It is also not uncommon to see utility easements” on public property and towns grant those permissions, Duke told the board Oct. 11.

Under-grounding lines and utility vaults are a different story, he suggested. And when the town attorney was consulted about the developer’s and Central Maine Power’s request, he advised that “this board lacks the authority to issue those easements,” Duke informed the Select Board.

That left the town essentially with two options if it wants to seek that authority from voters and have the option to grant or deny the current and future applicants’ requests. It can either hold a referendum vote or call a special town meeting where voters in attendance decide the matter.

Duke offered that he preferred the latter because, unlike the special Town Meeting, a referendum would take more time to plan and hold and the city would incur the bill.

There was some discussion about why the matter had not come to the board sooner and whether delaying the matter would be a hardship on the applicant.

In the end, the board voted unanimously to call the special Town Meeting.

The actual wording of the question to be put to voters is called Article 2 and it reads: “To see if the Town will vote to authorize the Select Board to convey and accept those utility easements which the Select Board deem appropriate in the name of the Town of Rockport.