The city of Hallowell is set to accept Meadowood Drive as a municipal road. The road was photographed Thursday. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

HALLOWELL — The City Council has unanimously approved taking over Meadowood Drive, a decision made after some councilors said Hallowell should revise its policy for taking over private roads.

The road, which connects to Vaughan Road, is part of a 15-lot housing subdivision owned by Farmingdale-based engineer Elliot Thayer.

In 2013, when the subdivision was completed, Thayer said he hoped the road would eventually become public. Since then, the city has considered taking over the road.

At a City Council meeting last Tuesday, City Manager Gary Lamb said all of the legal work required for the city to take over the road had been completed, and a lawyer had looked over the paperwork.

Councilor Peter Spiegel added the road had successfully undergone a freeze-and-thaw cycle.

Councilor Berkeley Almand-Hunter asked if city officials had said they would accept the road when Thayer began developing the area.

Councilor Maureen AuCoin said she was working as code enforcement officer at the time, and while the city made clear no promises could be made about taking over the road, Thayer had been “incredibly consistent” in ensuring the road was built to specifications and he kept in regular communication with the city throughout the process.

Almand-Hunter said the council should consider the benefit in accepting the road, such as the tax revenue brought in versus the maintenance costs.

“We can’t maintain the roads we have,” she said. “That’s my concern.”

Councilor Kate Dufour said according to the city’s road acceptance policy, a fiscal analysis is something that may be done, but it is not a requirement. She suggested revisiting and perhaps revise the policy. With Hallowell struggling to maintain the roads it now has, Dufour said, the city would likely have failed a fiscal capacity test, if it were a requirement.

AuCoin said the costs were discussed at a transportation committee meeting, with Public Works Foreman Chris Buck providing analysis on the potential costs.

Buck said he had a private contractor look at the road. The contractor estimated it would cost about $6,500 to plow Meadowood Drive for an entire winter, assuming about 20 storms. Buck added, however, the state and many contractors go by $5,400 per mile, and with Meadowood Drive only being two-thirds of a mile, the costs would likely be about $3,000.

Dufour said while $3,000 is good, summer and long-term maintenance costs also need be considered. She also said that while she will support taking over the road, because everything meets the criteria in the city’s policy, Hallowell should revise the standards so more-thorough fiscal analyses are done before the city takes over other private roads.

Meadowood Drive in Hallowell, which the city is set to accept as a municipal road. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“It is our obligation to make sure we can afford the services that we are providing,” Dufour said.

Mayor George LaPointe said councilors need to remember revenue is coming from the houses on Meadowood Drive, and taking over the road will not be “all costs and no return.”

Almand-Hunter disagreed, saying there might not be a return because residents of Meadowood Drive are utilizing city services and some are still sending children to local schools.

Going forward, she said, it needs to be proven the city’s taking over a private road would at least be revenue neutral, with a percentage of residents’ taxes going toward the road.

“I’ll vote yes this time,” Almand-Hunter said, “but I really think this policy needs to change.”

Lamb reminded councilors that if they felt it necessary, they have the ability not to accept new roads, which he said they need remember for the future.

LaPointe said Thursday the city must obtain an up-to-date title for the road. Once obtained, he said, the deed and warranty agreement can be finalized.

LaPointe was not able to provide a date by when all of this will occur, but said ownership of the road will be transferred soon to the city.

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