SKOWHEGAN — Selectmen are scheduled to deal with a couple of thorny street issues during their regular meeting Tuesday night — Moody Street and Cowette Street.

The meeting is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. in the assembly room at the Town Office on Water Street.

Some residents of Moody Street want it to be a town street, not a private way, which it is now. And some residents of Cowette Street, one of a couple of town streets that are used as a shortcut between North Avenue and Madison Avenue, want that street changed into a one-way street because of heavy traffic.

Discussion about Moody Street began in December. The street, with just a handful of homes, fell through the cracks when the last six private streets to become town-accepted roads were taken over at Town Meeting in 2010.

The difference between then and now is the fact that all of the landowners in 2010 benefited from the move. This time, there are abutters whose back yards are on Moody Street and might not want to provide easements to allow the street to be a town way.

Skowhegan selectmen agreed 5-0 at their last meeting three weeks ago to have the town manager send registered letters to three property owners in the area and to get a cost estimate on a survey to see what the results of making Moody Street a town way would mean to residents and abutters.

In the meantime, the town will continue “in good faith” to plow the street.

The short, dog-leg street with three houses on it behind the Skowhegan-Madison Elks Lodge is technically not a town street like all the others in Skowhegan. It’s a private road, but it’s been plowed by the town for decades.

Town Manager Christine Almand said Monday that selectmen will have taken all the information gathered over the past three weeks and come up with a solution, which could mean closing Moody Street as a public way.

“They will determine whether to finally say we are finally going to pursue it as a town road or we’re not,” Almand said. “If it’s determined we’re not going to pursue it as a town road, then legally we have to stop plowing and doing any maintenance to that road.”

A legal opinion from the town attorney said it is against the Maine Constitution for a municipality to spend taxpayer money maintaining or cleaning up private property, which board Chairman Don Skillings said at the last meeting in January made him uncomfortable.

Almand said Monday the town has limited options if officials are unable to obtain easements from the abutters to Moody Street.

The other issue raised last month was about whether it is reasonable or even legal to stop a service such as snow plowing in an area that has been served for decades without first taking the question to residents at a town meeting.

Another issue is what would happen if there was a medical or fire emergency on Moody Street if the road is not plowed.

Almand sent out letters to the five abutters on Hanover Street, to one on Smith Street and to the Skowhegan-Madison Elks lodge.

Skip Hodgdon, chairman of the Elks lodge board of trustees, said in a letter that his board “has no interest” in seeing the section of Moody Street that crosses their property becoming a town-accepted road. They are not in favor of giving up any of their parking lot behind the lodge, which is on Silver Street.

Almand said the estimated cost of the survey would come in at about $1,950, a cost that could be picked up by the town’s legal fund. She said town officials are not sure, without a survey, where the property lines are and how much of Moody Street is on Elks property.

The Elks lodge also owns a house on Hanover Street that sits next to the club’s parking lot, Almand said. The mail box for that house is on Moody Street, further complicating the matter.

“The town at this point, with abutters either not wanting to grant easements or being wary of granting easements, it’s going to be difficult to make it a town road,” Almand said. “But if they want to pursue that, they need to go forward with the survey to see how it affects people’s properties.”

Charles and Helene Bolstridge, both 78, say they’ve lived on Moody Street since the mid-1980s, and they’re afraid town snow plows will stop coming, even as a blizzard raged outside their home on Monday.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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