Commissioners get storm estimate

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PARIS – Initial estimates of damage wrought by Wednesday’s storms are much lower than the total needed to qualify for funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Scott Parker, the Oxford County Emergency Management Agency director, gave county commissioners the figures at their monthly meeting Tuesday. Gilead’s initial assessment is $195,000 in damages, while Newry’s is at $16,500.

Parker did not have figures available from the Maine Department of Transportation at the meeting, but later said that it amounted to about $16,000. He was still waiting on Bethel’s estimate on Tuesday afternoon.

Since Oxford County was the only county in the state affected by Wednesday’s storms, the total amount of damage must be $1.6 million or higher to qualify for FEMA aid.

“We have to meet the state threshold by ourselves,” Parker said.

Parker said damages to the Sunday River Ski Resort in Bethel may not be added to the total, because the resort is a private business.

Parker also informed the commissioners of the total amount of public assistance resulting from April’s Patriots Day storm. A total of $2,634,513 in damages was declared for 26 towns and townships for public assistance, and a total of $786,361 was declared for 13 towns and 108 individuals or businesses for individual assistance.

Commissioners also heard environmental consultant Jeff Stern and Parker request an application for a hazard mitigation grant to repair the Twin Bridges on Coburn Field Road in Riley Township. Stern said the bridges needed extensive repair, including the replacement of I-beams, and recommended “redoing the bridges completely.”

Commissioners concluded that the project, even with federal assistance, would be costly. They also noted how the road only extends 100 feet beyond the bridges, and accesses mainly recreational areas. County Road Commissioner Richard McInnis estimated that the county has spent $2,000 to $2,500 each year on repairing the bridges during the past five years.

“The taxpayers of Oxford County shouldn’t be paying for recreational purposes,” said Commissioner Caldwell Jackson.

Parker said figures from the state DOT show that the bridges were used frequently, and that there was an opportunity to improve them.

After commission Chairman Steven Merrill suggested the possibility of discontinuing Coburn Field Road, the board voted to invite feedback on the proposal from stakeholders on the road.

Sheriff Wayne Gallant received permission to acquire a used ambulance for the Sheriff’s Office from the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service, which sells surplus military equipment. Gallant said the ambulance was free, and that it could be used to provide an isolated place to interview people at accident scenes.

Gallant also announced the results of Operation Cleanup, in which 15 towns enlisted the services of inmates to clean up roadways. Participants in the program also provided assistance to town crews and did painting, raking and gardening in five additional towns.

In a 2-0 vote, with Jackson abstaining, commissioners approved an order for the adoption of a decision on tax abatements in Stoneham made last year. Merrill and Commissioner David Duguay, who both participated in the 2006 decision, granted abatements to residents Dennis and Gail Meka, as well as residents Joseph and Dixie Grillo.

The Mekas and the Grillos were among 12 property owners in the Harding Hill subdivision in Stoneham who also applied for abatements this year. The Oxford County Board of Review denied those abatements in May on the grounds that the town did not show discrimination in its assessment.

Jim Miclon, director of the Regional Communication Center, said the dispatch center’s communications tower on Black Mountain was “hit pretty bad” by lightning during a recent storm. He said a generator on the site, which had ceased functioning prior to the lightning strike, would be repaired.

Commissioners said pumps at Oxford Regional Airport were moved and found to be safe. They will be reactivated today. James Horowitz of Oxford Aviation, which rents space at the airport, had previously complained that the airport had lost more than $16,000 in revenue due to inoperative pumps.

The board also approved repair of the porch roof on the courthouse to prevent leaks, and considered the need for capital improvements at the county jail’s kitchen.

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