March 3, 2008; 6:00 P.M.

Attended: Jo Cameron, Stuart Smith, John Johnson; State Representative Jonathan McKane; Rhonda Fletcher, MDOT, Rockland office; Sandra Blake, Newcastle Town Manager; Russ Edwards, Boothbay Selectman; Peter Drum, candidate for State Representative; Edgecomb residents Robert Reed, Northrup Fowler III, Duncan Slade, Ken and Peg Schuler; Christopher Dougherty and other Newcastle and Boothbay residents; Charlotte Boynton, press

MINUTES of Feb. 25, 2008 were approved as amended

  1. PUBLIC COMMENT: Public discussion entirely concerned the status of the [Damariscotta] River Road, its present condition, repairs and improvements needed, and the likelihood of achieving them.
    1. Lallis: The status of the several state liens must be checked.
    2. Appeals Board: The Board plans to meet next week, following the schedule set up by Martha Speed. The one possible appeal was found to have lapsed, so no longer an issue.
    3. Town Hall Energy Audit: Paul Kando will conduct it on Friday, March 7, starting at 9:00 a.m.. He will borrow a key from Jo.
    4. Town Audit: Stuart will call Fred Brewer about this.
    5. Capital Investment Plan: tabled.
    6. Assisted Living Complex: It was voted unanimously to accept the improved form provided by Kyle Coolidge of Woodard and Curran, and to let them go ahead with implementing inspections, etc. necessary.
    7. Broadband Committee: Jo recommended that in addition to Barry Hathorne, Janet Blevins and John Markowski, that Mike Requa and Tom Boudin be appointed to this second committee, whose charge will be oversight of installation of the new infrastructure. Stuart Smith will serve as well.
    8. Letter of thanks to Barbara Martin was signed by all and mailed.
    1. The River Road: State Representative Jonathan McKane introduced Rhonda Fletcher, the Midcoast district manager in the MDOT Rockland office. He then explained that this is a state-assisted road serving three towns, one of many such river roads in bad condition throughout the state.

Jo reviewed the recent history, an attempt to have a small (.17 mile) section repaired, for which the Town in 2005 approved $25,000, at the time, 1/3 of MDOT's estimated cost for repair; that every year since, the state's cost had risen, necessitating the Town to increase its 1/3 amount.

Rhonda Fletcher described the "hierarchy" of roads in Maine, from the Interstate and federal highways, the state highway system, the major and minor collectors, and finally, the town roads. She distinguished between "built" and "unbuilt" roads. 75% of the minor collectors are unbuilt. In the funding decisions, those with the highest traffic count win. This year's MDOT budget is $200mil. Ten years ago, the State budgeted 25% on its roads; these days, only 10%

Rhonda suggested a maintenance mulch, a sand mix which lasts roughly seven to ten years, but it was pointed out that such a mix would not fill the deep cracks which have been caused not only by weather, but by the recent running of fibre optic cable from Nobleboro to Boothbay Harbor. Road Commissioner Scott Griffin said the shape of the road is so bad. that there are places a snowplow blade cannot touch the surface.

Rhonda estimated a total re-paving of the River Road might cost $10 mil., adding that as oil prices rise, so does the price of asphalt, which is a petroleum-based material. She said collector improvement programs are now costing $1mil/mile. It was suggested that the existing surface could be torn up, smashed, and reconstituted with reclamation asphalt, a technique for road stabilization known to last from 8 to 10 years. One resident said the last time the River Road was re-paved was when the Maine Turnpike was repaved. How bad does a road have to get before it can claim MDOT attention? However, Rhonda said the River Road, an unbuilt road, has never had a comprehensive re-paving.

Can we change its classification? What classification is minimal for a road to become "built?" What is the lowest class that brings in federal funds? A resident pointed out that of five criteria cited on the MDOT website, the River Road complied with four. Although praised by tourists as one of Maine's most beautiful roads, the business traffic is turning increasingly to State Route 27. Other residents warned that changing its classification might result in unwelcome widening, loss of trees, with increased car speeds resulting. Recent accidents and vehicle damage were cited as due to the rough surface.

Citing the recent Sheepscot Bridge rebuild, residents suggested several short-term measures while we are waiting for a permanent or long-term solution: Could we not have the River Road posted with weight limits? Could it be closed to semis and gravel trucks? Would a 35 mph speed limit be helpful?

One resident said that the River Road functioned as an evacuation route, dating from the time of an active nuclear power plant in Wiscasset, but also desirable in case of hurricane or other natural disaster. He said that the State has a responsibility to maintain it for that purpose. The Homeland Defense Department might have hazard mitigation funds for which the River Road qualifies.

Candidate Peter Drum recommended that the three towns continue on a collaborative course, that regional meetings be arranged as soon as possible to discuss follow-up.

Representative McKane was asked if he could get the State to re-prioritize the local roads issue. He said we need some hard numbers, and asked Rhonda Fletcher to send a list of options, with their total cost, and the shares expected from the three towns. He also suggested an MDOT study of the River Road.

    1. Gateway I: Jo said that regional workshops were being scheduled during the weeks of April 28 and May 5, that selectmen, planning boards and comprehensive plan task forces are urged to attend, to learn the implications of land use planning vs. Route 1 planning.
    2. The Budget meetings with department heads were on-going through this meeting, with the Planning Board, Harbor Master, and Roads. March 10 will be devoted to the School Board and the Selectmen. One department to be scheduled is Animal Control.
    3. Town Report and Warrant: Stuart recommended re-grouping the budget by expense category, as for example, Supplies, secretarial services, legal services, set amounts to be apportioned among the several departments. He recommended moving the Town Planner's salary from its own line item to the Salary category. He also recommended a Warrant Article establishing secretarial service for the Selectmen. It was agreed that the Selectmen should schedule time, perhaps a separate meeting, to discuss warrant articles for the Town Meeting.
    1. DHHS, survey of residents' heating needs: referred to Jo
    2. Wachovia, Hammond Fund statement and 1099 form: referred to Treasurer
    3. MMA Grant writing workshop: Jo will attend
    4. Wiscasset Library budget request of $8,252 for 2008-0: filed in 2008 Warrant folder
    5. MMA, LD1 review: referred to Stuart

#19 in the amount $143,372.43 was voted unanimously to be accepted for payment.

  2. ADJOURNMENT: Adjourned at 8:27 p.m .