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Council splits on Old County Road bond

State claims lack of funding; two councilors disagree, want to fight the state
By Daniel Dunkle | Apr 08, 2014
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Old County Road

Rockland — After meeting with state engineers concerning potential state assistance in fixing Old County Road April 7, a split City Council voted to go ahead with asking taxpayers to approve a $1.6 million bond for the project.

The council voted 3-2 with Councilors Elizabeth Dickerson and Louise MacLellan-Ruf opposed to approve the bond ordinance. Voters will decide in June whether to approve borrowing the money toward a road project that could cost $2.3 million with some assistance from the Maine Department of Transportation.

A public hearing will be held Wednesday, April 23 on the proposal.

The councilors questioned whether the road was the state's responsibility or that of the city during the meeting. There to help answer their questions were Andrew Hedrich from Gartley & Dorsky Engineering, Mike Burns and Jamie Andrews from the transportation department.

While it is a state aid road, as far back as the 1950s, the city entered into an agreement to share responsibility for the road with the state, according to the DOT engineers. The state is responsible for "capital work," major reconstruction projects, improvements and repairs. The city is responsible for maintenance, which can include surface repaving.

The transportation department employees stressed the state has a limited amount of money to spend on road improvement projects. It places the highest priority on major corridors such as Route 1, where it is spending $10 million in Warren and Thomaston. The priority is based on how much the road is used, not its level of disrepair, they said.

Under the proposed partnership with the state, the state would provide $500,000 per year per project, and possibly more.

Dickerson, who also serves as a state legislator, argued the state funding for important road projects has become a problem under the present administration because it frowns upon borrowing and using bonds for funding.

In response to a state official saying, "We just honestly don't have the money," MacLellan-Ruf retorted: "We don't have the money either."

"It's Rockland that is getting short-changed," MacLellan-Ruf argued.

She asked what would happen if Rockland imposed weight limits and slower speed limits on the road, discouraging truck traffic. Many in the community feel the road is used for large trucks supplying the Wal-Mart in Thomaston.

State officials said the road has to be open to all because it is a state aid road. Any speed limits or weight limits would come from the state not the city.

MacLellan-Ruf pointed out it was a state road when it came to that, but when it came to funding repairs, it is a city problem.

Councilor Eric Hebert said he is concerned about Rockland getting stuck with the bill when a lot of people who use the road do not live in the city. He said the plan to partner with the state makes sure at least part of the cost is not from city taxpayers.

Dickerson said there is an election in November, and the state's stance on bonds for road projects could change after that. Hebert argued the city should not wait for political winds to shift in Augusta to do needed projects.

Dickerson continued to argue, saying the city is already losing population due to the high property taxes. "We need to dig our heels in, say no, uh-uh," she said. She sees this as the city assuming the cost for something that is not its responsibility.

Courier Publications News Director Daniel Dunkle can be reached at ddunkle@courierpublicationsllc.com or 594-4401 ext. 122.

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Comments (2)
Posted by: Douglas E Collins | Apr 09, 2014 09:47

30 to 40 new large green  semi dump trucks have been using the road everyday for at least two months now. they come from beyond rockport and go i believe toward dragon but im not sure. Its just adding to to the problem and yes walwart truck use it now to go to rt 17. Not to mention dragons ho bouchard trucks and all the other lard equipment  from contactors. Many who do not obey the speed limits. Btw you never see any police patrols its a great road to do that on!



Posted by: Sandra Schramm | Apr 08, 2014 13:38

Spring has arrived, frost heaves will disappear and things will settle down on Old County Road once some of the usual potholes are patched. Let's hope cooler heads prevail and we can all deal with it and seek fair and equitable solutions.  Maine DOT is responsible and have over many years been supposed to look to rework and repair the road for the influx of increased traffic. They have not. The City of Rockland may have been complacent in staying on top of the road condition and seeking the job done by Maine DOT.  For Rockland to roll over spending at least 1.6 million which will not solve the long term issue, is a huge misstep. Old County Road needs much more work for the future. Widening, re profiling, drainage, bed work and top cost to touch on a few.  Yes, many have complained this winter, justifiably so, but this bond is not Rockland's to bear.  Why do we hire Gartley and Dorsky to put together a plan and estimate before we determine the city should undertake the work. Legal counsel should be pressuring the State of Maine and Maine DOT.  I see G&D mentioned in every job that the city undertakes yet I do not see the work being put out for bid nor are they on retainer to the city.  There are way too many unanswered questions for Rockland to go forward with this plan to use taxpayer monies when Maine DOT needs to be taken to task. When the road gave way by the Golf Course on OCR the Maine DOT had to address it immediately.  Rockland has long wanted their Main Street to be a pedestrian zone. This will mean more traffic for Old County. Could this be what former Manager James Smith was referring to as quoted last night?  When the landfill off Old County is closed and capped there will be more trucks hauling refuge out of the city, more traffic. A long term solution needs to be on the agenda.


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