A meeting of the Somerville Board of Selectmen, on the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 3, came to an abrupt conclusion after the board’s chair ended the meeting in the midst of the agenda when an individual asked to leave refused to do so.
The chair, Selectman Darlene Landry, unexpectedly adjourned the meeting, when Dan Barnett, a resident, refused to leave when he was asked to do so, after Barnett directed the term “idiot” at the town’s board.
The exchange occurred in relation to a discussion on the town’s roads, specifically this year’s reconstruction of Somerville Road, a road initially paved in 2017.
Selectman Christopher Johnson asked Barnett to clarify the nature of his remarks and when Landry subsequently asked him to leave and Barnett remained, the meeting was abruptly ended by the chair.
At an earlier point in the evening, Road Commissioner Josh Platt, explained 17 percent of Somerville Road experienced failure over the winter months and needed to be reconstructed this year at a cost of $135,000.
At the board’s September meeting Platt said the original estimate for the work on Somerville Road was $401,000, a figure including the final layer of paving, which has not yet been added to the road.
Seth Hagar of Hagar Enterprises Inc. of Damariscotta, the paving contractor, said the company was working with the town to complete the reconstruction work in a fiscally responsible manner explaining the contractor has met with the town on several occasions to address and resolve the issue with Somerville Road.
Barnett expressed frustration the town was paying the repair costs in addition to the initial project costs in an earlier portion of the conversation on roads.
In response to Barnett’s initial comments Johnson said the situation the town found itself in was not a case of bid overrun but of the work specifications for the project not being adequate for the conditions of Somerville Road.
Responding to public comment Landry said the situation was not the fault of the selectmen, the road commissioner, the contractor or the company that did the borings.
“We (Someville) didn’t have enough money to go deep enough with the borings. We didn’t do enough or go deep enough,” Landry said.
Johnson said it was easy to look at the cost to the town and be upset but added had the town done more borings the initial cost of the project would have exceeded the adopted bid total to account for the conditions under the road.
“It’s not like we’ve been running around tarring roads left and right,” Johnson said.
Multiple members of the public postulated the issue was in the town rushing through the project.
At the outset of the discussion Johnson read a request from the town’s road commissioner asking the board to approve an overage of the remaining capital roads budget of approximately $36,960.
According to Johnson, these funds would allow the town to meet its commitment and get capital road improvement projects done.
In a response to a question from the public Johnson said the money in question would go towards roads, specifically capital road improvement and the decision would result in less of a surplus for next year.
Johnson explained the request would not change taxes for residents this year and the money would come out of the general fund.
Landry said under state law the board was allowed to move funds in this manner via written approval if a request was made to do so by the town’s road commissioner.
Platt said the town did not anticipate spending an additional $135,000 on Somerville Road’s reconstruction necessitating his request.
“This gets us some cash flow so this fall we can keep making progress before things freeze up,” Platt said.
Landry said after the completion of paving on Somerville Road the town would not be doing additional paving in the future in accordance with the town’s 10-year road plan.
During a discussion immediately following the adjournment Johnson said in the future it would be prudent to call a recess to the meeting and contact a deputy from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office in the event of an incident where someone becomes unruly and inappropriate during the course of a meeting.
Landry apologized to the other selectmen and town office employees for adjourning the meeting prior to the conclusion of town business.
According to Landry, she would remain with the town office employees to go over financial information and the adjourned meeting would be rescheduled as soon as possible.
Johnson indicated the meeting could be continued when the board meets with Hagar to go over a proposed plowing contract prior to the next regularly scheduled board meeting.
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