Sidewalk plowing estimates not pleasing to selectmen

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro Road Foreman Eugene Field collected a lot of information on estimated costs of plowing sidewalks for the Sept. 22 selectmen’s meeting.  The information did not make board members happy, and they took no action.

The issue came up earlier in September during discussion of a pending Nov. 8 request to voters for funds to put in sidewalks in East Vassalboro.  Selectmen had just learned that the town is supposed to maintain the existing sidewalks in North Vassalboro, including plowing and sanding.  Vassalboro would also be expected to maintain East Vassalboro sidewalks.  (See the Sept. 15 issue of The Town Line, p. 6, for more details.)

Field talked with public works personnel in other Maine towns, researched different kinds of equipment and questioned a local contractor.   A lot of towns do not break out sidewalk maintenance in their public works budgets, he said, making an annual cost hard to get.

One town, he said, reported spending around $3,500 a season for sidewalk maintenance, excluding the operator’s pay.  The local contractor estimated he could do East and North Vassalboro on a three-year contract for a total of around $30,000.

Prices for a trackless sidewalk machine ranged from around $25,000 for a used one to $110,000 or more for a new one.  Alternatives like loaders and tractors are estimated to cost from $35,000 up.   Some of the machines would have other uses, Field pointed out.

Selectmen held lengthy discussions on two other topics at the Sept. 22 meeting, without resolving either.

Kent London and Jan Clowes of the Vassalboro Historical Society would like to renegotiate or at least clarify the 1992 lease between the society and the town that allows the society to use the former East Vassalboro school as a museum and defines responsibilities for the building and grounds.

Town voters have been appropriating $3,000 for the society every June; the town deducts appropriate charges, for example for mowing the grounds, and sends the remainder to the society at the end of the fiscal year.  London commented that the remainder decreased to around $900 last year, mostly because mowing charges increased.      He and Clowes also said that in the 1990s, the recreation department used part of the building and made a contribution in return; the department moved out and its contribution ceased, but, London and Clowes said, most of the grounds are used for parking for the boat landing, a recreational rather than historic activity.

Selectmen asked Town Manager Mary Sabins to talk with Clowes and Field about what they would consider a fair deal for the historical society.

Selectmen, resident Bernard Welch, Codes Officer Richard Dolby and town attorney Alton Stevens discussed a consent agreement between the town and Welch to resolve Welch’s violations of local ordinances.  Welch admits the violations but considers the combined fine and reimbursement for attorney’s fees too high.

Selectmen asked Sabins to continue discussion with Welch and Dolby.

The one decision board members made was to accept Field’s recommendation and buy a new John Deere loader from Nortrax, a Florida-based company with a Maine office in Westbrook.  At a cost of approximately $126,400, including a $3,000 option Field chose, the bid was the lowest of four received.   At the June 6 town meeting, voters authorized spending up to $165,000 for a new loader.

The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Thursday evening, Oct. 6.


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