May 25, 2018
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Houlton to take over roads in subdivision

By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff

HOULTON, Maine — After a lengthy discussion earlier this week, town councilors opted to accept 3,300 linear feet of new roads located in the Country Fields subdivision.

The matter first came before the council last month when Jim Brown, who established the subdivision just off County Road, addressed the group.

Brown told councilors he had been maintaining the roads in his subdivision since he first set up the establishment and began selling lots several years ago. At this point, 12 to 14 lots have been sold and five homes built, with six now under construction.

The roads in the subdivision are gravel and are built to town specifications, so the town could pave them in the future. Brown said he never intended to pave the roads, something that those who purchased lots in the subdivision knew ahead of time.

He also said the town has some “nice taxable values out there” and said he had always planned to turn the roads over to the town.

During their last meeting, however, councilors expressed hesitancy about taking over the roads. That hesitancy carried over during the most recent meeting.

Houlton resident Stan Ginish was adamantly opposed to Houlton’s taking over the roads, calling it an “undue burden on the town.” He also contended that Brown already had made more than $200,000 in profits from his subdivision.

Brown denied this, saying the engineering and other associated fee and permit costs to establish the subdivision had chewed away at the profit. He also said he was offering a service to the town, as not many lots are available within the town limits to build a home. In addition, he stressed that he always planned to turn the roads over to the town, something the planning board knew in advance. He countered that he shouldn’t have to maintain roads for which the town is getting tax dollars.

Councilors have said Brown was the victim of bad timing when he came before them at last month’s meeting, as the cost of fuel for plow trucks and the price of salt were on the rise. They also were concerned because the town already has a huge roads budget and speculated that accepting the roads could open up a Pandora’s box for the town, with other private road owners asking for the town to take them over.

Town Manager Douglas Hazlett stressed that taking over the roads did not necessarily mean the town would pave them.

Public Works director Leigh Stilwell estimated that it would cost $2,500 each year for winter road salt and a projected $5,000 each summer to treat the roads with calcium chloride, which holds the dust down.

Councilor Walter Goodrich noted that the subdivision is close to the Houlton Southside School and Houlton Elementary School and that Brown has said a lot of children live there. Ginish disputed that, adding that there were no bus stops in the subdivision.

Councilor Sue Tortello said she felt that the price for taking over the roads was too steep at this point.

“There are other private roads in town, and if we take over Mr. Brown’s, the others have the right to come forward,” she said.

Tortello wanted to wait until the roads were paved before the town considered taking them over.

In the end, however, the council voted 4-1 to accept the new roads.

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