AUGUSTA — A family that sued the city last week seeking to maintain access their hillside Boothby Street home by driving across the public works site off North Street still would be able to do so under a proposed agreement discussed Wednesday by lawyers for the city and homeowners.

The proposal, which would be subject to approval by city councilors, would allow the Poulin family to reach their home by crossing the public works property on a limited basis — but only during the day, when the facility is open, and only if they let public works officials know they’re coming ahead of time.

The agreement was proposed after discussion in a judicial settlement conference, conducted Wednesday by Superior Court Chief Justice Roland Cole. Jennifer Bryant, a lawyer representing Monique and Robert Poulin, and Monique Poulin’s mother, Lorraine Piteau; and Stephen Langsdorf, city attorney, took part in the conference.

The Boothby Street residents, who say their family has driven across the city property safely to get to and from their home for 70 years, sued the city of Augusta to prevent it from blocking off their access across the public works site. The suit alleges that if the city makes good on a warning that it would block access to their driveway at the end of this month, it will jeopardize their safety by cutting off the only access they have to their home other than a steep flight of 100 stairs from Boothby Street. Two of the homes’ three residents have disabilities and mobility problems.

Langsdorf said Wednesday that the city, as long as the family complies with the terms of the proposed agreement, would not block the residents’ access to the home when the month ends Friday, at least not until city councilors consider whether to approve the agreement at their next meeting, scheduled for Dec. 6.

Bryant said the Poulin family is “cautiously optimistic of this new agreement and hope that it’s a step towards a long-term solution.”

But she said the lawsuit still is moving forward, and if councilors don’t approve the proposed agreement, or the city and the family can’t reach an agreement for a longer-term license allowing them some access to their driveway, the lawsuit will proceed.

Langsdorf said the agreement is an attempt to balance the needs of the family with the need for safety and security at the public works site, where large dump trucks are filled with sand and salt and other pieces of heavy, expensive equipment are regularly on the move.

“City councilors are very concerned about safety and security on that site,” Langsdorf said. “They see this as a dangerous situation. When you turn (inside the public works site, to access the Poulin’s driveway across it) the salt and sand building is right there. You drive right through the yard, and that’s where trucks are loading salt and sand. You’ve got 15 different dump trucks.

“It’s really not an area where you’d normally want anyone from the public,” he added. “I think this strikes a balance that can protect the city’s interests and be empathetic to the Poulins’ plight, which is a plight we’re seeing with many people, of having mobility issues.”

Langsdorf said the Poulins providing advance notice they plan to access their property by crossing public works — either by calling or stopping at the public works office on the site — would allow officials to notify any workers in that area that they would be coming through.

He said as part of the agreement, the Poulins also would sign a waiver of liability, agreeing they would not sue the city if something happens to them while crossing the property.

Bryant said the city, under the proposed agreement, also would work with the family to help them find options to repair and upgrade the stairs to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Improvements, such as having a chair lift installed, would make the stairs more accessible for the homeowners.

Langsdorf, however, said the city’s role with the stairs would be limited to having an engineer provide an assessment of needed repairs and helping the family find grant funding to help make the repairs. He said no city funds would — or could — be spent upgrading the privately owned stairs.

The home, with an address of 74 Boothby St., was built in 1948 by Robert Poulin’s father. Robert Poulin has lived in the home all his life. Monique Poulin said it has been primarily accessed all that time by cutting across what was first the city dump, and since the 1970s the public works headquarters, to a driveway that leads to the family’s home at ground level.

An attorney for the family said they had no choice but to sue the city to prevent their access from being blocked, for their own safety. The lawsuit states that if the city were to block the driveway, the family would have no vehicular access to the home, nor would an ambulance be able to drive to the home; and that without being able to drive to and from her residence, Monique Poulin could lose her job.

Monique Poulin, 53, said both her husband and her mother are disabled.

The 73-year-old Piteau, who moved into the home to live with her daughter and son-in-law about three years ago, has dementia and has had hip replacement surgery. She usually is driven to an Alzheimer’s center three days a week, which Monique Poulin said helps prevent her from becoming depressed by getting her out of the house for a while. In an affidavit filed with the lawsuit, Piteau said going up or down the many steps to the home is difficult and dangerous for her, and she can only do it if she has someone to help.

Robert Poulin, 59, has had back surgeries that left him permanently disabled. He said in an affidavit he is not able to negotiate the stairs and, without vehicular access, he effectively would be a hostage in his own home.

Earlier this year Monique Poulin asked city officials for an access card that would have allowed the family to open a gate at the public works entrance when public works is closed, on nights and weekends. In September city councilors discussed the issue and, while not voting, expressed no interest in allowing the family to have an access card to be able to get through the gate at all times.

In June, according to Monique Poulin, public works employees blocked the entrance to the family’s driveway by putting concrete barriers across it where the driveway meets the public works site. So she called Jed Davis, of the law firm Mitchell and Davis, where Bryant is also an attorney, who called the city. The barriers were removed later that day.

As of Wednesday there was at least one temporary, movable, sawhorselike barrier where the Poulins’ driveway comes into the larger public works site. Bryant said the sawhorses were put up by city workers after the city was notified of the lawsuit. She said the proposed agreement should mean the sawhorses can be moved.

Bryant and Langsdorf said under the agreement that if the Poulins have special circumstances, such as if a furnace needs to be replaced at the home, they could get permission from the city for contractors to — with advance notice — access their home via the dirt road through the public works lot.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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