SKOWHEGAN — The town of Skowhegan attempted a compromise Tuesday night with residents and property abutters of Moody Street, a short dog-leg street that was scheduled to be closed to winter maintenance because it’s not an accepted road, unlike all the other town-maintained roads.

But it turns out there might be a snag.

Selectmen voted 5-0 to approve a solution to declare the traveled portion of the street a public easement — with plowing and sanding every winter — hoping to avoid what could have been “expensive and protracted litigation,” according to the agreement.

In exchange, the town agrees that it will not be responsible for street maintenance or road repairs during the summer, or the condition of the street surface caused by plowing and sanding or wear and tear over time.

“There’s been an agreement drafted by the attorneys,” Skowhegan Town Manager Christine Almand said before Tuesday night’s meeting of the Board of Selectmen. “Basically, it’s a compromise where we plow the road, but they’re still responsible for maintenance by having selectmen name the road a town way — a public easement.”

But Charles Bostridge, who, with his wife, Helene, first went to selectmen in November, fearing the road would be closed in the winter, said residents and abutters might not sign the agreement.

“No way in hell,” Bostridge said outside the meeting after the vote. “In the agreement that I got, they want to put on everybody’s deed (that) you have to pay $125. Why would you want that on your deed?”

The final line of the agreement document states that “the abutters shall be responsible for all recording fees” at the county registry, Bolstridge said.

The agreement has to be signed and returned to selectmen before the deal is sealed.

The agreement would grant the public the right to drive on the street, even though it’s still a private road, Almand said. She said the agreement taps an option that town officials were not previously aware of.

The street, which runs between Hanover Street and Smith Street behind the Skowhegan-Madison Elks Lodge, is technically not a town street. It’s a private road, but one that had been plowed by the town for decades, a point raised in the agreement document.

Residents and abutters contend that Moody Street has been converted into a town way by virtue of the decadeslong practice by the town of plowing the street and the “alleged use” of the street by the general public.

The Bolstridges, both 78, said in December that they’ve lived there since the mid-1980s, and they were afraid town snowplows would stop coming now that municipal officials knew that Moody Street is not a town-owned street or on town records as a municipal right of way.

“They’ve been plowing for 20 years. How can they stop?” Charles Bolstridge said outside their home on a mid-December afternoon. “I’ve wanted it to be taken over as a street, and they started right in bullying me. I’m not going to be bullied anymore. That’s why I went to the selectmen. I still maintain that if the town’s been doing it for so long, they cannot stop legally.”

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.

This summer, the Bolstridges and other residents of the street, where maintenance and snow plowing were to be discontinued, hired a lawyer to force the town to resume regular maintenance. On advice of the town attorney, the Skowhegan Board of Selectmen voted unanimously in February to designate Moody Street a private way, not a town-accepted road, meaning all maintenance and snow plowing would have to stop by the end of April.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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