AUGUSTA — A dozen families and a handful of businesses on both sides of the Kennebec River had to move.

Their property was condemned to make way for construction of the city’s third bridge, later dubbed Cushnoc Crossing, to carry Route 3 on the east side of the river to Interstate 95 on the west side.

That was a decade ago.

Now, a new project nearing design completion will link Route 3 directly with Route 27 near MaineGeneral Medical Center’s new regional hospital, which is under construction in north Augusta, and a new group of homeowners find themselves in the same position.

State officials say they are legally barred from discussing land-taking efforts in the current project, which includes construction of two roundabouts so exit 113 of Interstate 95 will function as a full north-south interchange.

The experiences of the landowners displaced by the third bridge project, however, offer a glimpse into the process. The Kennebec Journal got the compensation data for the properties in the Cushnoc Crossing project from the state Department of Transportation through a public records request.

The land-taking for the project a decade ago came as no surprise. Many of the property owners there knew for years that they would have to move.

Most of the residential property owners contacted recently said they were pleased with how the state handled the project, keeping them informed and even helping them find new homes.

But the commercial landowners were dissatisfied with the process and said they should have received more compensation for their land and business.

East side

The timing of the third bridge construction worked out well for Maurice and Judy Stickney.

“We were thinking that we needed to downsize anyways,” Judy Stickney said. “That gave us the little push that we had to do it.”

The couple had spent 37 years and raised four children in the home that was three houses north of the intersection of Route 3 and Riverside Drive. “That was the only place they ever knew,” Stickney said. “It was a beautiful home.”

The comfortable three-bedroom home had been remodeled, she said. It had a hot tub room, a glassed-in screened-in back porch and a pool.

Their Riverside Drive house wasn’t in the way of the road itself, but the driveway was deemed too close to allow cars to safely enter and exit.

She said a relocation consultant on the bridge project was easy to work with.

“I think they handled it very well,” Stickney said. “They went out and found you a home comparable to what you had. They found us a home with a pool.”

The Stickneys, however, ultimately opted for a home on Cushnoc Drive in Mayfair, in the Eastern Avenue-Hospital Street area, that did not have a pool. The state paid for inspection of two homes that the Stickneys were considering and took care of all moving expenses.

The Stickneys’ former home was used as an office during construction and then, along with two neighboring homes, was eventually torn down.

Maurice Stickney died last October.

Mark Desjardin, who spent 17 years as a police officer in Augusta, also lost his home to the Route 3 improvements. Desjardin moved a few miles north on Riverside Drive into Vassalboro.

The transition was less disruptive for him.

“I can understand how some people might not want to give up their place,” he said. “I had only been there for two or three years. The only thing bad was leaving good neighbors.”

He found a new home on his own.

“The state was great to deal with as far as that goes,” he said. “There was no pressure, no issues. They gave you all the information you need and all the support.”

Barbara Redmond and Pete Curato had to move from their Riverside Drive home as well.

“We purchased it in 1986 or 1987 and built a new home in Vassalboro in 2003,” Redmond said. “Not knowing where the third bridge was going to be located caused uncertainty in the years prior to the final selection. But once we knew the state would be taking our home through eminent domain, they did a good job of working with us through the process.”

The state paid $95,500 for the property.

But Richard Wing, who ran Wing’s Garage on Riverside Drive for 43 years, was less satisfied with his settlement — just more than $107,000 — which included compensation for having to move his home and his business.

He bought a house on Togus Road in his native town of Chelsea and his son built a garage for him. Some of his regular customers opted against following him to the new site, which is about two miles from the Randolph line.

The settlement “wasn’t what I really wanted, but I had to move out of there. I should have got more for the whole thing,” said Wing, 79. “They wanted to put me in a trailer and I wouldn’t let them.”

The Loiko family homestead was taken for the project as well. The North Belfast Avenue house, just west of Fort Western Tire Co., was owned by Frank Loiko, who bought it from his mother after his father died.

Loiko, who now lives in Belgrade, had been part of the old Fort Western Tire Co. on Cony Street before selling his share to his brothers and taking the sporting goods section to a new site on Cony Circle. Later he spent a dozen years in Newport, R.I., where he also was involved in retail. During that time, the home was rented out.

“I was going to come back and open a Christmas shop on North Belfast Avenue,” he said. “It had great visibility.”

Instead the road and bridge project was built.

“I didn’t appreciate it,” he said.

He received the appraised value of $136,000 for the property, which he felt was a worthy amount.

John Loiko Sr., now 79, was president of Fort Western Tire Co. when it closed in March 2003 after the state acquired the property by eminent domain, and he still lives near the site.

He said the experience was terrible.

“I wasn’t satisfied at all,” he said. “But there’s nothing you can do; death and taxes are one sure thing. So is land when they want it.”

The 64-year-old business and property, were worth more than the $681,000 the state paid, Loiko said.

“They look at the value but they’re forgetting the personal value in somebody’s life,” Loiko said. He also said the company incurred significant legal fees, though he wouldn’t say how much.

Brian Gordon, who recently retired from Capital City Tire on Riverside Drive, lost about one acre of land and two houses to the third bridge project. The state helped his tenants relocate and paid Gordon $65,000 for his land. “I wasn’t happy at all,” he said. “I owed $104,000 on that.”

He said he was originally going to fight for more money in court, but said he instead settled for some land frontage for a new store.

West side

The state took about 15 acres of Frank Trask’s land, where West River Road now intersects with Route 3, cutting his property in half, he said.

The parcel, adjacent to his home, had a house that he rented out. He received $82,840, and the state helped find new housing for the tenants.

“It was a fair deal,” he said.

The state paid the tenants’ moving expenses and for a time payed the difference between the tenants’ old and new housing costs.

Trask said negotiations with the state proved better than those years ago when the state took back land from the Trask family to create a rest area along I-95 in north Augusta.

“I think it was because (this time) there was more oversight from the federal government,” Trask said.

Carlene and Jerry Thacker moved from West River Road to Trueworthy Avenue almost a decade ago and the couple still have opposite reactions to losing their home to the road and bridge construction.

Carlene Thacker, 72, remains happy about their new location.

“I love it here,” she said. “The main thing is it’s very, very quiet. I don’t have the gravel trucks and all that traffic. There are nice neighbors and it’s a nicer home.

But Jerry Thacker, 76, bemoans leaving a house that had lower maintenance costs, lower tax bills and fewer utility bills.

They paid $1,100 in property taxes on their West River Road property. Now their tax bill runs close to $2,000.

“I went from a house with $1,100 in taxes to one with almost $2,000,” Jerry Thacker said. “And I got city water and sewer I’m paying. My house before, it cost me $500 a year for heating.”

The Thackers received about $112,000 from the state, and that included money for moving Jerry Thacker’s building contractor business.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

PROPERTY PAYMENTS

The state reimbursed property owners more than $2.7 million plus some additional moving costs for taking their homes and businesses to construct Cushnoc Crossing, Augusta’s northernmost bridge, which links Route 3 to Interstate 95 in north Augusta. The road and bridge opened in November 2004.

Here’s a sampling of how some of those payments broke down:

Jerry and Carlene Thacker

* received $75,000 when their West River Road property was condemned

* a $15,000 “replacement housing payment”

* $2,045 in moving and incidental costs

* $20,000 compensation for their business

Richard Wing

* received $57,000 when his Riverside Drive property was condemned

* $28,4000 as a settlement

* $21,623 for moving costs for him and his business, Wing’s Garage

Fort Western Tire Co.

* $491,000 at condemnation of North Belfast site

* $170,000 in additional damages

* $20,000 in lieu of relocation benefits

 


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