June 23, 2018
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Piscataquis County commissioners discuss costs of road maintenance

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

GREENVILLE, Maine — It is becoming more difficult to find contractors each year willing to do winter road maintenance in Piscataquis County’s Unorganized Territory, and those contractors who are interested in the work typically submit high-end bids, say county officials.

In an effort to rein in costs, the commissioners are contemplating not plowing and sanding the Katahdin Iron Works Road, also known as the KI Road, and the access road to the Squaw Mountain Ski Resort.

Although the state changed the name of Squaw Mountain to Big Moose Mountain, James Confalone, the ski resort’s owner, retained the Squaw Mountain name.

The commissioners, who met Tuesday in Greenville, agreed to hold a public hearing on the KI Road at 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 20, at the Milo Town Hall. The access road will be discussed during a public meeting later this summer, likely in August.

Other than one homeowner near Route 11, no one lives year-round on the Brownville end of the KI Road. While the Appalachian Mountain Club operates year-round camps on the road, 99 percent of its traffic comes through Greenville, Commissioner Tom Lizotte said.

As for the access road to the ski resort, the commissioners agreed in 2007 to maintain the nearly 2 miles of the county-owned road if the ski area and resort were open to the public. While the county kept its end of the bargain, Confalone has not, according to Lizotte.

“They did not do what they indicated they would do,” he said. Instead of being operated as a commercial ski area to benefit the community, it has been operated on a limited basis for certain programs headed up by volunteers in the community, he noted. “Basically, the county is plowing a road to a private business that isn’t being maintained as a business,” he said.

Commissioner Eric Ward said he had been contacted by residents in the area who think the county should discontinue the access road service. The decision to plow the road was made when there was a “glimmer of hope” that the ski area would be revived, he said.

Other road issues also were discussed. In an unusual move, nine Shirley residents have petitioned the commissioners to reconsider action taken by Shirley selectmen to close the Blanchard-Shirley Road to winter maintenance. Despite the fact a disabled resident lives year-round on the Blanchard end of the road, Shirley selectmen voted to cease winter maintenance because of the cost. Under Maine law, the commissioners can either overturn the local action or support the town’s action. A public hearing on the matter will be held July 6 in the county courthouse.

Also Tuesday, at the recommendation of County Manager Marilyn Tourtelotte, the commissioners voted to hire Roger Picard of Paving Management Services Inc. to prepare a paving plan for the 19.725 miles of paved roads in the Unorganized Territory. The cost for the plan is about $5,500.

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