2017-08-09 / Front Page

No winter maintenance for five county roads

By Dee Menear Irregular Staff Writer

FARMINGTON — Franklin County Commissioners held a Public Hearing Aug. 1 regarding the closing of several Unorganized Territory roads to winter maintenance. The only one present to voice opposition was a Buzzell Road, Madrid property owner.

Michael Greifendorf said he spoke on behalf of at least one other property owner when he told commissioners, “We’d like to see that road continued to be maintained in the winter time.” There are four properties on Buzzell Road that are accessed either seasonally or, as in Greifendorf’s case, year-round.

Commissioner Charles Webster stated the issue in closing the road to winter maintenance was the lack of place for the plow truck to turn around. In the past few weeks, Greifendorf had cleared an area for a turn around. Jerry Haines, Unorganized Territory Road Commissioner, inspected the turn around and agreed there was plenty of room for a plow truck. Webster stated all that was needed was an easement from property owners.

“I am hoping to avoid an easement but I would give you permission to turn around,” stated Greifendorf. Commissioners explained an easement was legally required for the county to use private property to turn around.

Greifendorf asked why the county was seeking an easement after many years of maintaining the road without one. Commissioner Clyde Barker explained, “Madrid used to be a town and there were a lot of things that went on that weren’t exactly kosher. As we are faced with these issues, we are trying to clean it up as we go.”

Commissioners agreed not to make a final decision on closing Buzzell Road to winter maintenance, giving Greifendorf and the County time to draw up an easement.

When Greifendorf questioned the closure of Huntington Road in Madrid, Webster stated, “With the exception of Buzzell Road, these roads amount to a driveway. Some have no permanent residents. If I lived up there and my neighbor is having his driveway plowed by the county, I’d be upset.” He said closing the roads to winter maintenance may not save taxpayers a ton of money but it was the right thing to do.

Commissioners agreed to close Huntington Road, Dodge Road and Schoolhouse Road in Madrid, Curtis Road in Freeman, and Marcy’s Lane in Washington to winter maintenance. The closure is in effect November to April for 10 years. A combined total of less than a mile of road is affected by the closures.

Commissioners are considering going through the process of closing Marcy’s Lane altogether once a bridge on that road is repaired, pending legal advice. At their July 18 meeting, commissioners learned discontinuing a road can be an expensive process because damages have to be paid to property owners. Commissioner Terry Brann stated the sole property owner on Marcy’s Lane is in favor of discontinuance and would use bridge repairs in exchange for a damage payment.

The bridge repair, which consists of replacing the wooden decking of the bridge with concrete, will cost about $9,500. Similar repairs to Reed Road bridge in Salem and the East Madrid bridge will cost the county about $39,000. Haines said the repair costs using cement are about the same as lumber but instead of lasting a dozen years, they will last 60 to 70 years.

In other UT road news, the plow contractor for Madrid and East Madrid opted not to renew his contract, citing expenses that were out of his control. “Minimum wage has driven the price of everything up: tires, windshield wipers, everything. I am expecting the price of fuel to be $4 or $5 this winter and I am in between a rock and a hard place,” stated Alan Brisard, who held a renewable contract with the county. Bernard was awarded the current

$63,000 a year contract in 2015 and held the option to renew for five years.

Commissioners will put the job out to bid, with adjustments to the miles of roads to be maintained in the winter. With the new contract, the county will provide sand for unorganized territory road use. Brisard said he expects to rebid on the job.

County Clerk Julie Magoon updated commissioners on a New Vineyard road matter. Cecile Lowell has contended that the town does not properly maintain Lowell Road, an issue Commissioners last reviewed in May. At that time, commissioners tabled any action pending a resolution at the town-level.

Magoon stated no action has been taken on the road, even after an attorney sent two letters to the Board of Selectmen. “I think they were under the impression that as a board they could vote on their own to discontinue the road. That is not true. There is a statutory route to closing a road and they have not begun that process,” Magoon told the board. She also stated she had been unable to get an answer as to what their intent was.

Webster asked, “Can we send a letter asking what their intentions are before we spend taxpayer money on a lawyer?” Magoon felt a phone call would be just as effective and agreed to reach out to New Vineyard selectmen.

The next Franklin County Commissioner meeting will be held Aug. 15 at 9 a.m. in the Franklin County Office, 140 Main Street, Farmington. The meeting is open to the public and attendance is encouraged.

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