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Paris will rework road plan to satisfy concerns
ROAD DEBATE — More than 50 people turned out to discuss a plan to repair the roads of Paris. Common viewpoints included concerns about the quality of the roads, concerns about raising taxes to pay for road repairs, and concerns about whether the presented plan included the true total cost of the repairs.
PARIS — Paris citizens will be asked to decide whether they want to raise taxes to fix the town's crumbling roads, during a November 14 special town meeting at which town leaders will recommend taking out a bond for as much as $4 million.
After a public hearing, in which dozens of residents expressed their views on the plan, the Board of Selectmen said that it felt it had not done a good job of presenting the idea to voters.
"They do not feel the plan we presented to them is adequate for them to make a wise decision," said Selectwoman Jean Smart. "I think we need to go back to the drawing board. ... We are in jeopardy of not getting our roads fixed."
Town Manager Phil Tarr made an official recommendation in favor of the $4 million plan, which would address 18 miles of the town's 70 miles of roads.
"A planned approach is the best approach," said Tarr. "It jump starts the work on these roads. Our operating budget should allow us to maintain them."
A computer system from the Maine Department of Transportation was used to help choose a total of 19 roads as being most in need of repair. Highway Foreman Dan Nowell reported that about half of the town's roads are in need of rehabilitation or reconstruction, as opposed to routine maintenance.
Few citizens questioned the choice of the specific roads on the list, but many raised concerns about whether there were ancillary costs that were not addressed.
"Are there things in the road crew's regular work that will not be done when they're doing extra ditching? ... " asked Kathy Richardson. "There are no estimated figures given for the cost to pave."
Putting on a surface coat of pavement will add approximately 35 to 38 percent to the cost to repair each road, but no plan to pay for that top coat was announced. Engineers said that the top coat is needed to extend the life of a newly-repaired road.
"What you have presented does not give me a lot of confidence," said Barbara Payne.
Ray Glover, former chair of the board, said that he had concerns about the scope of the plan, and suggested that it should include a strategy for dealing with all of the town's roads.
"It would cost $10 million, $15 million to fix the whole town," said Board Chair Ted Kurtz. "Are you suggesting we should spend more money and fix them all?"
"I just think you're not seeing the big picture," Glover responded. " ... You need to stay on top of the maintenance needs from year to year."
After the public hearing, board members asked Tarr to enhance his presentation to expand and clarify the information that was presented.
"I heard people were concerned about budgetary pieces that were missing," said Vice Chair Bob Kirchherr. "I think those were legitimate concerns."
Rob Prue, of Pine Tree Engineering, helped to develop the cost estimate. He said that many of the concerns were actually addressed in the plan, but that the plan didn't make it clear enough.
"We obviously did a poor job presenting this," he said. "Ditching is included in the costs in contingencies. That price is in there."
Kirchherr suggested that the costs should be itemized and broken out, rather than lumped into the category of contingencies, so as to give people a more clear understanding.
The board tabled a decision on whether to recommend the $4 million road plan. It will revisit the issue during a November 2 meeting, at which members hope to review a more complete and clear packet of information.
The meeting was attended by more than 50 people, and all those in attendance were orderly, a contrast to previous meetings on the issue which were disrupted by angry residents.
The estimated impact of a $4 million bond on the mil rate would be $1.56, which amounts to $156 on a home valued at $100,000. Lesser amounts, ranging from $1 million to $3 million, were also considered.
"This is not a decision for the selectmen," Kirchherr told voters during the public hearing. "This is a decision for the citizens to decide."
In other business, the board:
• Voted to evaluate Tarr using the same employee evaluation form which was used last year. The board had expressed dissatisfaction with the form in the past, but no suitable alternative was agreed upon.
• Approved the updated appendices of the General Assistance Ordinance. A public hearing was also held on this, but drew no comments from the public.