SKOWHEGAN — Charles Bolstridge held out his arms in a wide, slow shrug Tuesday night outside the selectmen’s meeting after a unanimous vote by the board not to open his small street as a public way.

The 5-0 vote officially makes Moody Street a private road, not a town street as Bolstridge and others had requested. Selectmen said as much as they might have wanted to keep the road open and plowed in the winter, there was nothing within Maine law they could do, despite the fact that the road has been plowed by the town for as long as anyone can remember.

Snow removal on Moody Street will stop April 30.

It will now be up to Bolstridge and his neighbors to keep the road, which is near downtown, maintained and open.

“We’re just going to have to accept it and deal with it,” said Bolstridge, 78, who has lived on Moody Street with his wife, Helene, for more than 25 years. “We’ll have to privately plow it and maintain it the best we can. We’ll have to do it all privately now.”

Moody Street runs in an arc from Hanover Street around to Smith Street, crossing property owned by the Madison-Skowhegan Elks, which has a parking lot there. For the town to take the street over as a public way, property owners on Hanover Street would have to agree to easements for their backyards.

Compounding the problem, according to Road Commissioner Greg Dore and Skip Hodgdon, chairman of the Elks lodge board of trustees, is the fact that the Elks club actually owns not only the parking lot, but the whole stretch of paved street to Hanover Street, including one of two houses there. The other house is on Hanover Street, an accepted town road, and is not on Moody Street.

Hodgdon said in a letter to the town that his board “has no interest” in seeing the section of Moody Street that crosses their property becoming a town-accepted road. They oppose giving up any of their parking lot behind the lodge, which is on Silver Street.

“I received a phone call from a landowner on that street that was absolutely, vehemently, against the town putting a public way through,” board Chairman Don Skillings said before the vote Tuesday night. “I am not in a position to take property from an individual taxpayer that is not willing to do that.”

Selectwomen Darla Pickett and Betty Austin agreed, saying their hands were tied if abutting landowners were against the move. Pickett said she did a lot of research on the matter and arrived at her decision based on the law and the facts, not her emotions.

“Nothing I would rather do than see you folks have a town way there,” Pickett said. “However, we’ve exhausted all our legal resources and we can’t do it without us jeopardizing and going against the law, so I’m going to have to vote for it, although I choose not to.”

Bolstridge and his neighbors will have the whole summer to set up a plan before next winter, Austin added.

Moody Street 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 backyards are on Moody Street and might not want to provide easements to allow the street to be a town way.

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, so the plowing of Moody Street has to stop.

Skowhegan Town Manager Christine Almand said previously that the town had limited options if officials are unable to obtain easements from the abutters to Moody Street.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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