AUGUSTA — Boothby Street homeowners looking to get an official OK for safer access to their home appear to be out of luck.

Augusta city councilors, while not voting on the matter, showed no interest Thursday in honoring a request from Monique and Robert Poulin, who live at 74 Boothby St. with her mother, for permission to use the city’s public works site off North Street to get to their home. The house is accessible otherwise only by walking up a long set of wooden stairs that wind their way up a steep hill between the home and Boothby Street.

Monique said her family has been going to and from the home that way for 70 years and needs to use it more now because her husband has had back surgeries, and her mother has Alzheimer’s disease and back and hip problems, so it is difficult for them to use the long set of stairs to get to the house.

So they asked the city for official permission to access their home the way they already have been, unofficially, for decades — via a dirt road that cuts through the woods to the bottom of the public works property, past the sand shed and piles of granite and other raw building materials.

City officials, however, said having people cross the public works site is a safety hazard and could open the city to liability problems. Further, they said allowing that access, especially as requested, including after business hours, when the gated public works site is otherwise closed to the public, would compromise security of the city property.

They said the city shouldn’t allow the residents to continue going to their home that way.

“I see liability, safety and security issues we could talk about for a very long time,” Stephen Langsdorf, city attorney, told city councilors who discussed the request Thursday night. “Now that we know this, we have to tell them to stop. I think you have to block that road.”

Monique Poulin said Friday they’ve been using the old, roughly 450-foot-long dirt road that goes between the rear of their property and the public works site, crossing public works to get to North Street.

“They said it’s because of safety concerns, but we’ve been using it for 59 years, and there has never been a problem, not once in 59 years,” she said. “Actually it’s 71 years, because my husband’s parents lived here and used it before then.

“The house was there before public works was. There was always access that way,” Monique added. “We use it quite a bit. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

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City assessing records indicate the home was built in 1948, when Augusta’s city dump occupied the site where the public works operation is now.

Poulin wanted to make her case to city councilors, but said she was told by a city official the issue would be discussed Sept. 17 — not, as it was, on Thursday. She said she plans to explore her legal options.

“I don’t think that’s fair,” Poulin said. “I’m going to fight this.”

She said theirs is the only house that has access to the road.

Councilors and City Manager William Bridgeo expressed sympathy for the family, given the difficulty of reaching the home from the Boothby Street side. However, they said the city can’t allow the public to have free access to the public works site, where dump trucks, loaders and other pieces of heavy, expensive equipment are in use and stored.

The wooden steps leading to the home make a steep climb from the end of the dead-end Boothby Street.

“In my time here, I haven’t encountered anything like this,” City Manager William Bridgeo said. “It’s like the Led Zeppelin ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ It’s like 150 steps or something.”

Monique Poulin said her husband was born and raised in the home, and he and his family used the access to North Street regularly, especially up until the 1990s, before a gate was put across the John Charest Public Works Facility entrance.

She said they’ve been able to leave their property through the public works site even when the gate is closed, because it opens automatically when a vehicle approaches from inside the property. She said they are unable to get back through the gate when public works is closed.

Bridgeo said the family requested to be able to access the site officially. He said in order for them to do that, they’d need an electronic key, as some public works employees have, to be able to open the gate from the outside when public works is closed.

He said he wasn’t comfortable doing that without running the idea by councilors.

All councilors who spoke about the request Thursday spoke against it, though no formal vote was taken.

“From a risk management perspective, this is not something I would support,” At-large Councilor Marci Alexander said. “I do feel for them, having a hard time getting to the property. It’s unfortunate we’re not able to accommodate this. It’s a dangerous site, not a park.”

She said living in a house with such limited access has drawbacks.

Lesley Jones, director of public works, said she wouldn’t call the public works site dangerous, but that it is like a busy construction site, where you wouldn’t want cars driving around while plow trucks and loaders are on the move.

Bridgeo told councilors that “city government” didn’t know the family was accessing their home that way.

Monique Poulin said public works employees have seen her going in and out across the city property plenty of times, including Jones. She said she waves to city employees as she crosses the property.

Jones said she has seen Poulin going in and out across the city property before, but she thought she just did so once in a while. She said she assumed the home had a driveway and was usually reached from Boothby Street. She also thought Monique was on the public works property only when the gate was open.

Jones said some people reach hiking trails in the area via the public works property, though she said trail users are encouraged to park outside the public works complex.

The public works site is just below a series of trails connecting through the Bond Brook Recreation Area.

Bridgeo said city officials would have to talk about what, if anything, the city might do to prevent the continued use of the dirt road leading to the Boothby Street home.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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