A landslide caused by erosion has reduced the road to one lane on Father Rasle Road in Norridgewock. Dan Meade walks his dogs Cooper and Pippa Monday near the slide. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

NORRIDGEWOCK — Town officials have asked their state leaders for help funding a $7 million project that will address ongoing erosion and safety concerns on three roads.

Town Manager Richard LaBelle recently shared with the board two applications for different funding requests had been sent to two different agencies. The more expensive project, coming in around $7 million, was sent to Maine Sen. Angus King’s office and will address ongoing erosion concerns with three roads in Norridgewock.

“We’ve seen some preliminary indicators in terms of costs and those costs are very, very significant,” LaBelle said. “Looking at the opportunity for congressionally directed spending, the new and improved earmarks out of the senate, we submitted an application to Sen. King’s office through a Congressionally Directed Spending request.”

The request addresses infrastructure needs while also looking at the impact that it would have on the rivers nearby. To date, the town has taken on design and permitting proposals.

A statement of need submitted by the town with the funding application details the erosion concerns the town became aware of in 2020. The town houses around 3,300 residents and is bisected by the Kennebec River and bounded on the west by Sandy River.

Each project discussed in the letter directly impacts the nearby rivers and each project “lies outside the Town’s sole financial capacity.”

“Our Town has dedicated itself to investing in improving in infrastructure. … The town’s unique location on two rivers has posed a significant hurdle in maintaining Town-maintained roads while preserving natural resources,” the letter said.

The three roads raising erosion concerns are Sandy River Road, Winding Hill Road and Father Rasle Road. On Father Rasle Road, erosion caused officials to close part of the southbound lane after a nearby homeowner noticed a problem during the snow melt in the spring.

“It was pretty much a sink hole in the shoulder of Father Rasle Road that came up during the spring melt,” LaBelle said. “A homeowner called and it took me one site visit to make the decision to close the road down. If two trucks were to meet on the road, it would pose a very big safety issue.”

LaBelle also contacted the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Transportation, but after several meetings with state officials, the town was told neither agency had the money to support the repair.

Annually, the town has allocated half a million dollars to the reconstruction budget for last decade. However, that fund is now merged with overlay funds total $560,000 per year, which does not allow the town to “mitigate these grave concerns on public roadways along the rivers.” This change was made in 2019.

Achieving a federal grant would give the town permission to design, permit and reconstruct the roads to provide safer infrastructure, protect natural resources and maintain the habitat for animal species, including the Atlantic salmon.

So far, the town has hired an engineer to look at ways to fix the problem on Father Rasle Road, which LaBelle said currently has part of the southbound lane closed. LaBelle added that Haley Ward Inc. had been hired for the Father Rasle Road project, while Dirigo Engineering have been hired for the Sandy River project.

In a July 19 letter, the town received a letter from Sen. King’s office acknowledging the application and requesting that Norridgewock’s River & Highway Preservation project be funded by the Senate Committee on Appropriations. This does not guarantee that the funding will be approved, but rather that senators who sit on the committee will review all projects and decide which ones move forward.

Norridgewock applied for funding that would help a project bring a sidewalk to the road that connects Everett Tire to Oosoola Park along Skowhegan Road. The road shown connects the park with Everett Tire, which is located at 2 Skowhegan Road. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The second project application was submitted through the Maine Department of Transportation’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Funding. At last week’s meeting, LaBelle said that the targeted areas for this project, which would upgrade and rehabilitate sidewalks, would include repairs to the area from Mill Stream Elementary School to Everett Tire as well as the addition of a sidewalk from Everett Tire to Oosoola Park. The two-phase project, he said, would primarily be funded by the state, who pay 80% of the project cost up to $400,000.

“In order to provide upgrades to sidewalks or to expand sidewalks, a lot of focus is on safety, access and walkability,” LaBelle said. “We’ve submitted a two-phase application that would, in essence, do nearly $1 million of upgrades and extensions to our existing sidewalks.”

If approved, town would be responsible for providing around $200,000 for the project.

In other business at last week’s selectmen meeting, selectmen approved up to $200,000 from the town’s undesignated fund balance to be used to offset the tax commitment.

Discussions last week continued on where to relocate the town’s temporary speed table. Selectmen have recommended Stanley Street, but decided to table the item until the next meeting to ensure that all residents of the road are aware of the proposal and have time to either contact a selectmen or attend the public hearing.

The temporary speed table originally sat on Depot Street, but when selectmen decided to approve the installation of two permanent speed tables earlier this month, the temporary one was no longer needed.

Discussions on exactly where to place the permanent speed tables on Depot Street continued. To address concerns with the nearby crosswalk, LaBelle said that the speed tables will also serve as raised crosswalks and signage will also be added to the street.

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