AUGUSTA — A proposal to pave 1,000 feet of crumbling roadway on Western Avenue drew lively debate at Thursday’s City Council meeting.

In the end, councilors voted down a proposal to spend about $20,000 to pave a short stretch of two eastbound lanes of Western Avenue, by Smith Street and Edison Drive.

But not before multiple meetings of debate on the issue.

Residents and councilors traded accusations of promises unfilled, disagreed whether it should be the city or state’s responsibility to pave, doubted the state would follow through on plans to rebuild the roadway in 2013 and proclaimed fears that approving the project could set a precedent of playing politics with paving priorities.

No one argued the stretch of road, which longtime residents said was last freshly paved decades ago, needs work. But that need doesn’t make it especially unique, some councilors said, noting there are many miles of state roads in the city in dire need of work.

“If we do this, we’d set a precedent,” Councilor Edward Coffin said. “If we do this, is Bond Brook Road next? And then what’s next?”

Councilor Michael Byron, the lone vote in favor of the city paving the road, said what makes this particular stretch of neglected roadway different is a 2006 email from City Manager William Bridgeo, in which, Byron said, he agreed to have city crews pave that stretch of road.

Bob Crockett, a Smith Street resident, agreed.

“This thing has gotten all blown out of proportion,” Crockett told city councilors Thursday. “All you’re really voting on is whether you want to honor an email sent to the citizens of Augusta, by the city manager, saying that the repair would be done in 2006-2007.

“You’re voting on this one issue, and this issue only. Or are we going to sweep the whole thing under the carpet again, like it has been for five years?”

Bridgeo previously acknowledged the city said in 2006 it would pave the section of road. He said city paving crews weren’t able to get to the project that season. He said he was unsure why it wasn’t done the next paving season.

And Bridgeo was reluctant to commit city money to pave the stretch of Western Avenue now, knowing the state Department of Transportation plans to rebuild the roadway as part of a larger, $5.6 million U.S. Route 202 reconstruction project in 2013.

Bridgeo said DOT Commissioner David Bernhardt assured him personally, and in writing, the state has already planned the project, funding is in place and the project is expected to be under construction in 2013.

Smith Street resident Ron Lovaglio said the state has said previously it would pave the road, but did not do so.

He said the project manager on the project told him “in a perfect world, construction will be completed in the fall of 2013,” Lovaglio said, expressing concern state funding for the project could be withdrawn. “That’s in a perfect world. It’s optimistic.”

Byron — who also is a Smith Street resident — said the paving proposal was not about him or his neighbors.

“It’s not just Mike Byron, or 12 people who live on Smith Street. It’s a gateway to the city, with over 14,000 vehicles rumbling through that washboard every single day,” Byron said. “We were promised, in 2006, the city would take care of this. We’re asking, tonight, for this council to honor that 2006 promise.”

Multiple councilors said it is the state’s responsibility to pave the road. Rep. Maeghan Maloney, D-Augusta, agreed to ask state DOT officials if the state could do a skim coat of paving on the bad section of road, prior to the planned 2013 reconstruction.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]


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