Board considers closing road, approves putting new bus to voters
MADAWASKA, Maine — Selectmen tabled taking any action, Monday, March 6, regarding the proposed closing of a section of St. Thomas Street.
The closing or partial closing is being considered as a way to lessen congestion around Bicentennial Park during events, and to allow more room for vendors at those activities. Also, closing the road could provide town-owned space for the construction of a public rest room.
Town Manager Ryan D. Pelletier briefly reviewed options for closing the road, including “discontinuing” it. This would involve a formal process and could require paying abutting landowners damages if closing the road devalued their property.
St. Thomas Street runs east/west and terminates where it meets 12th Avenue. Helen Fortin, who owns Chez Helen’s Restaurant on 12th Avenue spoke at the meeting about how completely closing that section of St. Thomas could negatively impact her business.
St. Thomas Street offers a direct route to Chez Helen’s from the nearby Catholic Church. Fortin said closing the section of street would hinder traffic flow from the church and those attending events at the park.
Pelletier suggested the option of either narrowing the wide road or making it a one-way street. These options could provide the extra room along the south side of the park that the town is looking for, while still allowing traffic to flow.
However, Pelletier and board chair Brian Thibeault commented that Bicentennial Park, with is managed by the town, is actually on land owned by the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Portland. The town leases the property, and that lease is up next year.
Pelletier said negotiations with the Dioceses are ongoing. If the lease is not successfully renegotiated, Pelletier said the town would likely relocate Bicentennial Park to an as-yet to be determined site.
The selectmen felt it was important to finalize a new long-term lease with the church before making any final decision regarding changes to St. Thomas Street.
In other town business, Monday, selectmen declined to approve a $450 sewer bill abatement from Walls Media. Walls owns the former St. John Valley Times properties on Main Street.
According to Roger C. Albert, who has been working for Walls to oversee the property, a toilet remained running after someone working at the old office building used it. That lead to a higher than expected water bill and sewer bill.
Walls paid the water bill, but Albert requested that $450 of the February sewer bill be abated, as there was no dirty water being sent into the sewer system from the running toilet.
Pelletier told selectmen that each year similar requests are made from residents who accidently leave faucets or toilets running. “There is no ability to recommend abatement because there was no error on our part.” said Pelletier.
Selectman Don Chasse, who is the director of Madwaska’s Water District, said his office gets similar requests regarding water bills, which are denied.
“It’s not fair,” he said. “We can’t start doing it now.”
Selectmen approved a request from the Madawaska School Department to add an article to this summer’s annual town meeting warrant, asking voters if they want to approve expending $110,000 on a new school bus.
School Superintendent Gisele Dionne told selectmen Monday that the department went from six to four buses this school year, including the anticipated loss of the only spare bus.
“Or fleet is getting old,” said Dionne.
The state has approved up to $99,000 in reimbursement funds for the purchase of a new bus, which would be granted the year following the purchase. However, that amount is only valid for this current year.