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County considering Blanchard road closure

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — Earlier this year spring runoff caused nearly $23,000 in damage to an approximate 1,000-foot stretch of the Mountain Road in Blanchard Township. Closing this section of the narrow, steep, dead end travelway to winter maintenance could prevent such occurrences and save money but with one year-round resident and other property owners using the road, the Piscataquis County Commissioners will have a decision to make.

“This came about because of the extremely bad washout we had this year,” County Manager Tom Lizotte said during a July 2 meeting.

The commissioners had approved the $22,855 repair cost as part of the session’s Unorganized Territory (UT) expenditures agenda item. “This is the largest single such project we have done since I’ve been here,” Lizotte said, saying the cost is about twice the normal summer road maintenance budget for all of Blanchard.

“The road is fixed and that’s part of the reason we are having the public hearing,” he said.

The county manager said the first Mountain Road bridge on the travelway heads up hill. With the road being plowed, snow and ice accumulates in the ditches and melted water has nowhere to go but down the middle where there is little snow to absorb the runoff. He said the Mountain Road has been plowed from November to April since Blanchard deorganized in the 1980s, but for safety reasons the contractor only drives up during the day and after the storm is over.

Lizotte said plowing this last portion of the Mountain Road costs about $7,000 annually. He said a possible closure is not about saving money “but future avoidance of washouts on that road.”

Commissioners Chair James White said county officials at first believed there were only seasonal residents and tree growth property owners — who were notified by the county of the public hearing — on outer Mountain Road but they learned there is one year-round home.

David Cormier said he has lived in Blanchard 12 months a year since 1989. “It’s a big change for me to lose the plowing service there and obviously I’d like to see it continue,” he said.

“I’ve been a resident there 30 years and I’d like to continue that,” Cormier said. “I looked at the property in the winter, it was plowed and if it wasn’t I wouldn’t have considered purchasing it as my home.”

“Our intention would be to plow over the first bridge on the Black Stone Stream,” Lizotte said. He said next to the bridge would be a snowplow turnaround and parking area for those accessing their properties up the road — Cormier said he lives about a mile past this location.

Ron Franklin said he purchased his seasonal property in 2007 and does visit late in the year when there is a possibility of snow. “Something to worry about is fire and ambulance,” he said.

“This is why we held a public hearing, the commissioners need to factor that in,” Lizotte said.

“It’s my home, I’ve put my roots down there,” Cormier said. “I’m going to stay there one way or another.”

One option mentioned would be to plow, if need be, through late December and close the road from January into April depending on the conditions.

White said he would head to the Mountain Road to see the site for himself and he requested someone check with the property owner adjacent to the bridge to see if they would allow for a turnaround and parking area. “What I want to see is parking secured and not just a verbal agreement,” he said.

The commissioners are scheduled to make a decision on winter maintenance for the section of the Mountain Road at the Tuesday, Aug. 6 meeting.

In other business in his report Lizotte said, “Atkinson, they have fully joined the UT. They have paid their county tax 6-months prorated.” He said community officials also have paid cemetery and road monies to the county.

Lizotte said the state will hold an account of about $25,000 for five years should there be future fees for Atkinson to pay, such as with lawsuits and insurance claims, and after a half decade the funds will be turned over to Piscataquis County.

The county manager said the Maine DEP has signed off on the salt/sand pile closure and “the McCorrison Road bridge has been closed off at both ends.”

The Land Use Planning Commission will now handle duties that formerly fell under the Atkinson planning board. Lizotte said the commission will hold a meeting on the evening of Aug. 8 to explain how residents can handle zoning issues.

“Everything we needed from Atkinson has been accomplished and now they’re ours,” he said.

Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency Director Tom Capraro said work by Knights Siding & Roofing of Detroit has begun on the four-bay storage garage for vehicles and equipment on the county’s East Main Street campus. “They started within 48 hours of your last meeting,” he said to the commissioners.

“It’s going good, I’ve checked it out a couple of times and they’re doing a good job,” Capraro said. “They’re getting ready now to pour in concrete so they’re building it up.”

While the building construction is going on, the Dover & Foxcroft Water District is putting in a new line and the town will be paving a section of School Street.

Last month Capraro said he worked with the project engineer to modify the building design in order to reduce construction costs such as the facility going from two stories to one. In July 2018 the commissioners passed a motion to waive the competitive bid process and authorize Capraro to negotiate with a contractor at a rate capped at $120,000.

Knights Siding & Roofing bid $132,000 for the project. Capraro said this amount is a bit over budget but potential department funds could be used to make up the difference.

The Knights Siding & Roofing bid does not include electrical, plumbing, heating and paving but Capraro said contractors already working with the county can be used for this work.

He said construction could be completed by early fall at the start of the next county budget cycle.

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