Hot as asphalt: Casco to continue easement plowing

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer

CASCO — Like blacktop in the direct July sun, roads are a hot topic.

People put money and hard labor into maintaining the road they live along, and those who get the town’s plowing service would like to continue to do so. Plus, most residents feel they pay more than enough taxes, and deserve to have their roads plowed on the town’s dime.

By law, residents must vote annually that the town will provide wintertime maintenance services on public easements — which are private roads that adhere to a set of standards. This vote is required because the Maine State Law deemed public dollars cannot be spent on private roads.

During Casco Town Meeting on June 8, when moderator Holly Hancock said, “The ‘yeahs’ have it,” the response was all-out applause.

Although the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of continuing to plow the 17 miles of public easements in Casco, the comments on the issue were more than a mile long.

“These people who live on private roads, that is the only thing they are getting for their tax dollars,” Phil Shane said. “There is a subcontractor in town who spent a lot of money and would lose money” if public- easement plowing stopped, he said, adding, “I would feel bad. I remember when we used to plow driveways, too.”

“It’s small peanuts,” Shane said as he spoke in support of town funds being applied toward keeping those private roads plowed during the winter — especially since it’s a service folks are accustomed to.

Some residents said the service is already paid for, by the taxes of homeowners living on those roads.

“Tax revenue from residents of plowed roads is 45 percent of tax. The tax burden is almost twice those,” said John Curtis, of South Casco, who quoted dollar amounts from numbers he had crunched.

“We should continue to plow private roads because there is a heap of tax money coming from those people,” Curtis said.

Resident Jenn Murray said she would like to know the dollar amount that is spent on wintertime maintenance of the town’s public easements.

“The (Casco) Finance Committee didn’t come up with that number, and (Town Manager) David Morton was going to come up with a hard number,” she said. “We really need to take a hard look at who is benefiting from those private roads being plowed,” Murray said.

Alice Rose, who lives on Maple Street which is a private road and not a public easement, said, “We do spend a lot of our own money, our own time. Those roads were built in the 1970s when developers built homes, and the town was anxious to see tax money.”

“I am not saying the town should continue forever through infinity,” she said. “I would ask the town to work with people who live on these roads to fairly distribute the cost of maintenance and plowing,” she said.

“As a community member, I should support these services whether I use them or not,” Rose said including the school and library with plowing of public easements.

Resident Jeannine Oren asked about the protocol for road associations to have their roads classified as a public easements so the town could assume the burden.

“What is the policy to get our roads on the list?” Oren asked. “If the road association wishes to require the services, they would have to petition the board of selectmen,” Morton said.

In other business, Morton told voting residents the wintertime maintenance for Route 302 increased by $394,460. That brought Casco’s roads budget to $707,060. Residents approved $160,000 for road maintenance and reconstruction. In a separate article, another $75,000 was dedicated to road improvements. That money is listed under capital improvements.

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