Livermore Falls public works employees cleared the town’s section of the sidewalk Wednesday on the Androscoggin River Bridge on Route 4 between Livermore and Livermore Falls. After the Maine Department of Transportation clears Livermore’s side once, both towns will clear their respective sections. Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal

LIVERMORE/LIVERMORE FALLS — Mark Whiting watched an older woman Tuesday slip as she tried to scramble up icy snowbanks on the sidewalk next to the Androscoggin River bridge as two large commercial trucks approached her.

“My heart was pounding,” Whiting of Livermore said Thursday. “I thought the lady was going to get hit as she tried to step up on the snowbank.” She was carrying a bag, he said.

He decided to do something about the dangerous situation, calling officials and the Sun Journal. And his effort paid off this week.

The sidewalks on the bridge over the Androscoggin River have been the responsibility of both towns for nearly 60 years.

“The bridge should be taken care of by both Livermore and Livermore Falls,” Whiting said.

It’s an issue with deep roots in the area. The late G. Henry Botka of Livermore wrote to Androscoggin County commissioners on March 1, 1962, asking them who was responsible to keep the sidewalks on the new bridge clear of snow.

Livermore Falls clears about half of the walk from its side to the middle of the bridge, Botka wrote. From there on, the people, mostly children, walk in the center along with cars and trucks.

His letter was prompted after a near accident of a 7-year-old boy and two tractor-trailer trucks passing each other, Botka wrote.

“This is a busy section on Route 4, and with no place to walk, other than the road, creates a very serious hazard,” he wrote.

Commissioners sent the letter to the state Highway Commission, according to a document provided by Aaron Miller, administrative assistant to the Livermore Select Board. Mark Hume,  a region engineer for the Maine Department of Transportation, emailed it to Miller on Thursday.

State Bridge Engineer then, Max L. Wilder, wrote to Botka on March 8, 1962, telling him that “snow removal on the sidewalks of the Androscoggin River Bridge, Livermore-Livermore Falls, is the responsibilities of the municipalities. While the state performs winter maintenance which includes snowplowing and sanding on Route 4 in Livermore, this does not include what could be considered hand work in keeping the sidewalks clear,” Wilder wrote to Botka.

A Livermore Falls public works crew used a sidewalk tractor and other equipment, along with shovels to get its side of the sidewalk cleared Wednesday and put down calcium chloride to melt the ice, foreman Bill Nichols said. The DOT agreed to clear Livermore’s section, this one time, Hume wrote to Miller on Thursday.

Livermore Falls interim Town Manager Amanda Allen said Wednesday that the town would keep its section of the sidewalk clear for the remainder of the season. The town had not made a payment to Livermore since 2015, she said.

Livermore’s side was still in rough shape Thursday morning but it looked like tires had gone over it to flatten snow.

Miller said it would be cleared Thursday.

He has been talking about the sidewalk clearing since October 2020, he said. He put out a help wanted ad for snowblowing the bridge sidewalk Oct. 30.

“I think we had two responses,” Miller said. The person who had previously done it for $90 each snowstorm had put in his resignation but changed his mind. He would do it for $150 per storm. It was mid-budget and Miller said he didn’t know if Livermore Falls would reimburse the town for the work and the use of the town’s snowblower.

On Jan. 19, he contacted a state DOT attorney to see if Livermore was responsible to keep the bridge sidewalk clear. The attorney, Toni Kemmerle, wrote that she spoke with region staff and DOT’s municipal liaison about the situation.

“We allow sidewalks on our right of way, and often fund them to benefit the local municipality, but we do not have the resources to remove snow from the sidewalks and do not take on that responsibility,” she wrote.

In addition to considering sidewalks a local service, Maine DOT looks to municipalities to perform winter maintenance for sidewalks because municipalities are better equipped to remove snow given that they usually clear sidewalks on local roads as well, Kemmerle wrote.

She also pointed out that the federal Americans with Disabilities Act regulations require year-round maintenance of sidewalks, and poorly maintained sidewalks are not accessible or safe.

On Jan. 19, Miller also wrote to Allen and forwarded Kemmerle’s opinion. He suggested in an effort to provide pedestrians safe passage over the bridge, that Livermore Falls either maintain the Livermore Falls section of the sidewalk, as required by federal regulations, or commit to paying Livermore the cost of snow removal. When the selectmen in Livermore Falls met, they tabled it.

An agreement between the towns wasn’t found.

Former Livermore Administrative Assistant Kurt Schaub, who left in March 2014 and is now town manager of Turner, on Thursday looked through his old reports given the Livermore board. He found an entry about an agreement with Livermore Falls regarding the bridge.

“Based on information I have, Livermore and Livermore Falls,  up until 2008, did their respective halves of the bridge,” Schaub said.

Beginning in 2009, Livermore worked with Livermore Falls on an agreement, which was presented to the Livermore board on Dec. 14, 2009, according to his report, Schaub said. Livermore Falls agreed to pay Livermore $50 per storm, he said.

There was no vote taken on it by the Livermore board, Schaub said.

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