We were surprised last week to see the Thomaston Select Board go into a closed-door meeting with Dirigo Engineering on the pretext of carrying out negotiations. The agenda said this was to discuss the acquisition of real or personal property.

What we learned is that the board has been discussing a potential new highway from Old County Road near the Dexter Street intersection to Route 1 by the bridge with the purpose of bypassing Thomaston’s downtown.

The town authorized up to $20,000 for a feasibility study by Dirigo Engineering for this “east-west” highway.

What else do we know? Not very much.

For reasons we do not understand, the usually pretty open Thomaston town government is treating this as a state secret.

Town Manager Kara George turned down our request for an interview and issued a gag order in an email to both the newspaper and select board members, as well as the town attorney saying we should not contact individual select board members, but channel all questions through her office. That would be the office that is not granting us an interview, by the way.

We, of course, will not in any way limit ourselves as to who we question when it comes to matters of public interest, but we found in the past that these kinds of gag orders have a silencing effect on select board members and town staff.

The reasons for the silence oft trotted out is that our story is premature (as all news stories seem to be, according to town officials) and this is just in the very initial, early phases of the discussion. Not so early and initial and premature, of course, that real money isn’t being thrown on the table to look into the matter, nor so early or premature that they are not already huddled in a back room to enter negotiations that could be adversely affected by the public knowing about them.

Again, we are talking public money here.

The major concern, of course, will be with property owners in the area. Will the town take their land for this project? We would argue a public hearing would have been the best place to start that discussion.

One also wonders how the downtown merchants feel about this idea. They had to weather years of construction to improve the downtown and Route 1 only to be bypassed by this new project if it ever gets off the ground.

What we do not know is a lot, such as:

  • How would the town pay for a new road?
  • Would it involve taking anyone’s property through eminent domain?
  • When would this be built?
  • Why is this needed?
  • Who proposed this and how did they get it before the board?

Feel free to call and email the town office to find out answers to those questions directly, since no one is allowed to talk to us. The public speaking portion of select board meetings is also a good time to raise your questions, and feel free to write open letters to the board and send them to us for our Letters to the Editor section at editor@villagesoup.com.

If Thomaston officials will not talk, maybe they will listen.