READFIELD — The four parties to a regional agreement for public works have become three and may soon be two.

Manchester has withdrawn from the interlocal agreement through which Readfield has provided some public works services to that town, as well as Wayne and Regional School Unit 38, since 2007.

Wayne is studying whether it makes financial sense to continue with the agreement, which is in a tenuous position since Readfield voters abolished their own Public Works Department in June. Readfield’s Public Works Department formed in 2009, two years after the four entities used grant money to buy a tractor together as a step toward creating a regional public works department.

The regional department never materialized, but the towns and the school district cooperated on roadside mowing, treating gravel roads and patching potholes.

Although the agreement says it will be terminated if Readfield withdraws, it’s not clear whether the elimination of the Public Works Department should have the same effect, Readfield Town Manager Stefan Pakulski said.

“Does that just set the clock back to before there was a public works department but we still had an interlocal agreement? I don’t know,” he said. “That’s for a lawyer to decide, or for the selectboards to decide they don’t want to do it.”

In the meantime, former employees of the department have continued to do some work under the terms of the agreement, such as roadside mowing for Wayne.

They cannot, however, do similar work for Readfield because the town meeting did not appropriate money for it.

A new Readfield referendum on Sept. 14 could overturn the first one and re-establish the department, compounding the uncertainty around the interlocal agreement.

Manchester selectmen were uncomfortable with that, Town Manager Patrick Gilbert said, and they voted to withdraw, as the agreement allows.

“To have it hang out there and not take any action on it was not a good thing,” Gilbert said.

Manchester had to add 4.1 miles of roads to its request for road plowing proposals because Readfield workers used to plow them. The town also will have to find a way to handle smaller maintenance needs, such as cleaning culverts and installing signs, Gilbert said.

“Those are the things that as a manager it’s nice to have that regional public works department,” he said. “Without that you’ve kind of got to find private people to go out and do these little jobs, which is difficult. They’re not going to drop a big job to come out and fill a pothole.”

Wayne Town Manager Amy Bernard is exploring the cost of hiring private companies to do the work that has been provided through the interlocal agreement.

The town’s selectboard will consider whether to withdraw at their Aug. 16 meeting, she said.

RSU 38 hasn’t relied as much on the interlocal agreement because it has some of its own maintenance staff. The district has also provided some space for equipment, Superintendent Rich Abramson said.

The school board has no intent to withdraw from the agreement, but Abramson questioned what would be left if Wayne joins Manchester in leaving.

“We’ve found it to be positive,” he said.

If the agreement is not terminated in the coming weeks, it will expire at the end of June.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

[email protected]

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