County won’t plow road to Big Squaw Mountain resort this year

Posted Sept. 20, 2011, at 7:30 p.m.

ABBOT, Maine — No open ski resort, no plowed road.

That was the decision the Piscataquis County commissioners made Tuesday regarding the winter maintenance of the Big Squaw Mountain access road. The commissioners voted to close the road between November and April for the next five years because there was no activity at the privately owned Squaw Mountain ski resort last winter.

“If the mountain is not being operated as a ski resort, there is no reason for the county to plow the road and expend taxpayers dollars because there is no economic benefit to county residents as a result,” Commission Chairman Tom Lizotte said at a meeting held at the Abbot Municipal Building.

The decision to close the road to winter maintenance came after a public hearing to which James Confalone, owner of the Squaw Mountain ski resort, was notified by mail. Other than Abbot Selectwoman Jan Ronco, county employees and the press, there was no one from the public in attendance, although the hearing was widely advertised.

Telephone calls made to Confalone for comment after Tuesday’s meeting were not returned.

The access road located in Big Moose Township is county-owned from Route 15 to the gate of the ski resort, so the funding for the road maintenance is provided in the Unorganized Territory budget. There are no homes along the road.

This was the third hearing in five years the commissioners have held on the proposed road closing to winter maintenance. Because the resort was partially open in previous years, the commissioners agreed then to continue the service. Their stance during those years has been consistent: The road will be plowed as long as the resort is open.

Lizotte said the ski resort was not operated last winter and there was no public activity there whatsoever.

“No ski resort, no economic impact, and in my mind, no need to expend public funds to plow a road that leads essentially to a defunct ski resort,” Lizotte said.

Should Confalone decide to reopen the facility, the commissioners said they would willing to revisit the matter, but they would want some guarantee in writing. The request would have to be made before budget deliberations so the funds could be restored.

The commissioners plan to meet with local contractor Mike Theriault to see if he will waive the remaining year of his contract to plow the road.

If Confalone decided to plow it himself, he would need county approval.

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