ROCKLAND, Maine — A divided Rockland City Council gave preliminary approval Monday night to placing a ballot item before voters in June on whether to borrow $1.6 million for repairing a crumbling Old County Road.
The vote came after the council met for an hour with representatives of the Maine Department of Transportation, trying to determine each party’s responsibilities. The word from the transportation department was that the road was the responsibility of the city; however, the state could kick in up to $500,000 through a municipal partnership grant.
Councilor Eric Hebert said he has heard enough complaints from residents to put the bond referendum before voters.
Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson, who is also the city’s state representative in the Maine House, said that the problem is that the current Republican administration does not want to issue bonds for needed projects such as transportation improvements. Instead, the administration shifts costs to local municipalities at the same time that it cuts municipal revenue sharing, Dickerson said.
“I say we wait for November and see if we get fresh air,” the Democratic state representative said.
Hebert said he did not think waiting for the possible outcome of November elections was a good way to get the road repaired.
The estimated cost of repairing about 7,700 feet of the road from Thompson Meadow Road to Route 17 is estimated at $2.3 million.
Hebert said he was concerned that if the city waited for the state to repair the road, it would become a dirt road.
Old County Road resident Stephen Carroll said the city should post a weight limit on the road and force those vehicles over the limit to use Routes 1 and 90, which the state maintains.
State transportation officials said, however, that while the city is responsible for maintaining the road, the state has the authority on setting speed and weight limits.
The council vote Monday night was 3-2, with Dickerson and MacLellan-Ruf voting against holding a referendum.
A formal public hearing and final vote by the council on whether to hold the June 10 bond referendum is scheduled for April 23.
Correction: The quote concerning Old County Road becoming a dirt road if repairs are not made was incorrectly attributed. Councilor Eric Hebert made the comment.