Oxford County commissioners turn down gravel pit proposal

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ALBANY TOWNSHIP — A proposal from private companies to relocate a strip of road owned by Oxford County in order to extract high-quality gravel has been turned down by county commissioners, who are asking for a better deal.

The proposal seeks to re-route about 800 feet of Albany Basin Road in order to mine the gravel underneath. It was submitted to the town by Harry Brown, owner of a gravel pit that Albany Basin Road runs through, and N.H.-based construction and paving giant Pike Industries.

According to County Administrator Scott Cole, the companies estimate about 122,000 cubic yards of material can be extracted from the county’s property.

Cole said the county owns the mineral rights to the property.

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Todd Sawyer, a Waterford contractor and Oxford County road agent, worked on the proposal with the companies, Cole said. 

According to the proposal, Oxford County would have right of first refusal to a portion of the gravel over a 10-year period, adding up to about 10 percent of the whole.

The two owners of properties along the road, which is off Route 35, have expressed no opposition to the road relocation plan, Cole reported.

Commissioners Caldwell Jackson of Oxford and Steven Merrill of Norway were not convinced, however, that the proposal was the best deal for the county. 

“I feel that they are getting something for nothing,” Jackson said. Even though the company had to invest in extraction, it was still operating on land owned by the county, he noted. 

Merrill suggested that the value of the material, which can be used by the county for its own road projects, was too high to give away for such a low share. 

“Giving away those mineral rights to somebody to make a profit, I don’t know if that’s what we want to do or not,” Merrill said. “Maybe we need a bigger stake in that.”

Cole intends to contact the companies in order to negotiate a new agreement. He reported the companies intend to move forward with an application to the state’s Land Use Planning Commission, the body that regulates zoning and land use in Maine’s unorganized territories.

pmcguire@sunjournal.com

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