FARMINGDALE — The town has been plowing a road it hasn’t owned for 22 years.

After that recent discovery, Farmingdale officials were told by their attorney public money could not be used for work on private property. While the town plans to continue plowing the short street extension for the rest of the winter, what will happen next year remains uncertain.

Clark Street Extension, which is about 200 feet long and juts off First Street just east of its intersection with Second Street, is the site of the properties of just two landowners. Both, however, are asking the town to continue plowing the road beyond this year. For Farmingdale to keep doing so, though, it would need town voters’ approval.

Selectmen discussed the town’s options at their meeting Wednesday but took no action.

Town Clerk Rose Webster told the Kennebec Journal on Wednesday that the road was discontinued in a 1996 vote, something she discovered while looking for easement documentation. She was seeking that information because Road Commissioner Steve Stratton wanted to fix a drainage problem on Clark Street Extension in December 2018.

After the road ownership discovery, Webster was told by Town Attorney Mary Denison on Dec. 18 that public funding could not be used to plow the private road. Denison advised in a Dec. 26 email that the town continue past practice until the end of the winter, then solve the problem with a question at Town Meeting.

On Thursday, landowner Andrew Proulx, who owns property listed at 11 First St. — but which actually is located on Clark Street Extension — said his attorney found the road is discontinued only at his property line, which would allow the town to plow to his property line and no farther. He said the former landowner wanted the road discontinued on his property to develop the property, but the development never happened.

Clark Street Extension landowner Andrew Proulx speaks at Wednesday’s Farmingdale Board of Selectmen meeting.

The other property owners, Merleen and Lloyd Ahearn, claim they never signed anything to discontinue the portion of the road on their property. Since the Ahearns’ property is before Proulx’s property line, Proulx claims the town still owns the road to that point — if both landowners are correct in their claims.

Webster said Thursday that Denison was discussing the matter with Proulx’s lawyer.

Jim Grant, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said after Wednesday’s meeting that the board will explore all possibilities to remedy the situation, including potentially bringing a question to Town Meeting, where residents could vote to use public funding to plow the road. If selectmen do not put the question on the warrant, a citizen’s petition — requiring the signatures of 100 residents — would be necessary to bring it to a town vote. The town also could reclaim ownership of the road.

Grant said the road was plowed for 22 years after the town’s decision to surrender ownership because no one told the contractor to stop plowing it.

Proulx said he previously had granted the town access the storm drain on his property for the aforementioned drainage project, but he would revoke that access if the town stopped plowing Clark Street extension.

“I am willing to give you whatever easement access … in order to do that,” he said at the meeting, “but in exchange, I want that road plowed.”

The Ahearn residence, left, and Clark Street Extension are shown Friday in Farmingdale.

Grant said he was worried that if the town continued to plow the street, residents of other private roads in Farmingdale would feel entitled to the same service.

Merleen Ahearn, 72, said she is on a fixed income and would not be able to hire anyone to plow. She said the town is claiming that she owns the road, but she never wanted to own it.

“We don’t want the road back,” she said Wednesday afternoon. “We wanted it plowed.”

Ahearn said she has lived at the property, listed at 13 First St. on property tax commitment books, for almost 50 years.

Proulx said hiring a contractor to plow the road would cost him $1,500 to $1,800 a year. He said he is unwilling to hire a truck and accept liability if someone was hurt on the road.

“If I took it upon myself to hire a plow truck, where does the liability fall?” Proulx said at the meeting. “It opens up a whole new can of worms.”

A letter is being drafted to notify Proulx, the Ahearns and an abutting landowner at 7 First St. — First Street Investment Properties LLC — of the change.

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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