Commissioners uphold town vote on Shirley’s Blanchard Road

DOVER-FOXCROFT — A decade-plus disagreement over winter maintenance of the Blanchard Road in Shirley between the town and a resident will likely now be headed to court for a solution.

The Piscataquis County Commissioners opted to uphold a town meeting vote to discontinue winter maintenance on the travelway rather than take any other action during a Nov. 2 meeting.

Following a public hearing on the Blanchard Road in early August, the commissioners opted to table any action on their behalf. The commissioners decided to review the situation should there be any developments in Shirley.

Via a special town meeting earlier this year, residents voted to discontinue winter maintenance on the Blanchard Road, which has a long-time year-round resident. Exactly who would be responsible for plowing and how much of the dirt road would be cleared has been in dispute for many years.

A public hearing was held earlier in the fall, and an 11-8 straw vote favored the discontinuation.

The commissioners said they felt strongly about not overturning the vote of Shirley residents.

“Either way we go, this ends up in court,” Chairperson Jim White said, with the property owner’s next option to bring his case to superior court.

“We don’t believe there’s anything going on that has been right on either side,” he said, saying there has been spite from both the property owner and selectboard. “We believe it’s a situation that needs to go before a judge.”

In other business, the commissioners approved the promotion of Eric Berce to dispatch sergeant with the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office.

Piscataquis County Jail Administrator Maria Landry said two candidates were interviewed and Berce was hired. He has been working as a dispatcher for the department.

The commissioners signed the 2021 Maine County Emergency Management Mutual Aid Agreement.

“This is the first time all the counties have had the same wording,” Piscataquis County EMA Director Jaeme Duggan said. She said other than the individual names of the counties, the document is the same in all 16 entities across the state.

“It’s a very standard mutual aid agreement that police and fire departments use all the time,” she said.

Several weeks into the job, Duggan said she has met with town officials in a half dozen communities across the region as well as representatives from Northern Light Mayo Hospital over Zoom. She said she also has looked into the region’s Red Cross shelters to be prepared if these are needed.

When asked by White about how many of the region’s first responders may be affected by Gov. Janet Mills’ vaccine mandate, Duggan estimated about a third.

“It is an issue,” she said, saying some are more concerned over the mandate rather than receiving the vaccine itself. She said a recent call for ambulance assistance in Kingsbury Plantation was covered by a crew from Dexter due to no one closer being available.

“These volunteers around our county shouldn’t be put in that position,” White said about vaccine requirements in order to serve the community.

“As you know we’re working through the budget with the budget committee,” County Manager Michael Williams said. He said the budget advisory committee and department heads have worked to trim $75,000-plus from the initial county and Unorganized Territory spending plans.

The total is to be determined, but the commissioners authorized the use of American Rescue Plan Act funds awarded to the county for a computer upgrade. Monies in the regular budgets will not have to be used for this purpose.

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