Patches are seen Tuesday in the center of Jewett Road in Pittston. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

PITTSTON — As Pittston looks to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on roadwork in the coming year, town officials have voiced concerns about the person who oversees road repairs.

A recent report from an engineering firm hired by the Select Board found that poor construction work and low-quality materials were to blame for premature breaking and cracking on Jewett Road.

The nearly 2-mile road was paved in 2019 under Road Commissioner Sam Snow’s direction and began showing signs of early deterioration two years later. It has been been patched at least 19 times, costing Pittston nearly $200,000.

Sam Snow Construction Inc. handles all of the roadwork for the Kennebec County town.

Now, the town might have to pay several million dollars to rip it up and repave it, if engineers cannot find another solution.

As the town’s elected road commissioner, Snow’s job is to develop a list of roads and areas that need paving or other road work in the spring so the town can put the projects out to bid. All projects costing more than $5,000 in Pittston are supposed to be put out to bid.


Snow informed selectmen Aug. 16 of his plan to pave four roads in town, including Palmer Road.

But Selectmen Jane Hubert and Joe Caputo said they were hesitant after “what happened with Jewett Road.”

The board voted 2-1 to have a finish applied to a part of Palmer Road that already has a base coat. Hubert and Caputo voted in favor, while Jean Ambrose voted against it and wanted Snow to pave the entire road. 

“Now you want me to give you the OK and trust that the base is OK?” Caputo asked Snow about Palmer Road. “I have a hard time with that. Do I want to see Palmer Road done successfully? Of course I do, but I’m partially responsible (as a selectman) for the go-ahead, and that’s the problem I’m in.” 

Patches at the center of Jewett Road in Pittston. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Meanwhile, selectmen reviewed a bid Aug. 30 to send to an engineering firm to review options for fixing Jewett Road.

When the first signs of cracking and breaking appeared on Jewett Road in 2021, it prompted then-board Chair Kerri Malinowski Farris to order a report from S.W. Cole Engineering Inc., which has an office in Sidney.


Completed in October 2022, the report found the gravel used to build the road — and ordered by Snow — was of poor quality. The engineering company recommended the town rip up the road and repave it, rather than keep patching it.

Snow, who is elected annually to be the town’s road commissioner and paid $12,500, did not return messages seeking comment.

Including Snow’s salary, the town budgeted $771,100 for road-related services for the 2023-24 fiscal year, which is a large chunk of Pittston’s $1.6 million town budget. Of that, $396,000 is for snowplowing.

According to invoices from the town, repairs to Jewett Road cost about $180,000 in 2019 and 2020 and $4,998 in 2022. All States Materials Group paved the 1.8-mile road.

Normally, when building a road, a gradation test is performed to measure the percentage of rock and clay found in the gravel, but the town does not have a copy of any record of a test, officials said during a Select Board meeting.

The report surveyed the road with a graduation test and found that the roadway gravel consists of “silty gravelly sand” that varies in thickness from 8 to 11 inches and had a fines content of 15% to 17.7%. A properly built road has between 0% and 8% fines content, the engineering firm said.


Clay and silt are examples of fines, which are extremely small particles, considerably smaller than beach sand.

According to the report, the road has “longitude and alligator cracking” along with settlement found on the road’s centerline, which S.W. Cole Engineering said it believes is from “poor construction at the centerline,” and the result of softening of the road from “poor compaction and drainage.”

So-called alligator cracking can occur when a road cracks in the form of circles, like on an alligator’s back.

Several people at a Select Board meeting in mid-August were clearly upset by the possibility of repaving Jewett Road, as S.W. Cole Engineering had recommended.

“We understand from a cost perspective that it is desirable to box cut and repair the distressed areas and overlay the existing pavement or reuse the existing gravels and place new pavement,” according to the report. “However, the existing pavement gravels have high fines content with high frost susceptibility and poor drainage characteristics.”

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