Houlton road bond draws criticism

Posted Jan. 27, 2009, at 10:35 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:03 a.m.

HOULTON, Maine — Voters in Houlton will decide during a special election in March whether to approve a $1 million bond that will be used to fix local roads and sidewalks.

Some residents at a Town Council meeting Monday evening spoke out against the move, however, and one said he hopes the public votes against the proposal.

The town has tried for years to stay ahead of road and sidewalk repair, but the increasing costs of asphalt and other materials have thwarted their efforts.

Now the town is asking voters to decide whether to approve a $1 million bond that will be used specifically for road repair. It is set to be paid off over 20 years.

A referendum to decide the matter is expected to take place March 23, councilors said Monday evening.

The council and the board of budget review support the passage of the bond.

Some residents, however, do not.

Houlton resident Carl Lord told councilors he hoped the public votes against the measure.

Normally, the council sets aside 1 mill of its annual budget for road repair and reconstruction. This year, the town did not put any money into its roads account because officials hope to secure the bond. If the bond proposal fails, the town will have to decide what to do next.

“I think we should continue to set aside 1 mill for roads each year,” Lord told councilors. “If we do all the roads at once they are all going to fall apart at once. Do this through the budget process.”

Another resident, Francis Fitzpatrick, said, “I am disappointed that nothing is in the budget for roads. Zero [dollars] for road maintenance and repair is not the number I wanted to see for any year.”

He added that he didn’t believe that in today’s economy $1 million would fix a lot of roads and sidewalks.

Houlton resident Phil Bernaiche said he was concerned because the town had not publicly specified which roads and sidewalks would be repaired.

“There is no information about where you are going to do this work and what sidewalks you are going to do,” he said.

Town Manager Douglas Hazlett said Monday evening that the town would put the project out to bid and that local contractors would benefit if they were hired to do the work.

“Every dime of this will be put out to bid,” he said. “The roads we do will be determined by the grading system we have.”

He added that he would continue to urge councilors to set aside 1 mill for road repair each year in addition to the loan money.

Hazlett has maintained that if the bond passes, the town “will be able to repair most if not all the sidewalks and pave and repair a good portion of our town roads while basically keeping the budget and taxes neutral.”

Councilors are expected to confirm the date of the special election during a public hearing on Feb. 23.

jlbdn@ainop.com

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