Sumner meeting gets heated over icy roads

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SUMNER — Tempers flared at Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting as members defended the town’s winter road maintenance program.

The spirited defense was in response to a letter read by Planning Board member Thomas Standard, who called the roads “unreasonably dangerous.”

He further accused selectmen of “wanton failure to perform the duties of office.”

Selectman Walter Litchfield said Sumner has 48 miles of roads to plow.

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“It’s not always a clean and easy job,” he said, adding that he “takes offense” at the language of the letter because “we are trying.”

He said that when he took on the duties of overseeing road maintenance, busy roads such as Routes 219 and 140 were plowed first.

The town contracts with brothers Alfred and Weldon Lucas of Lucas Enterprises for plowing.

“Since the Lucas boys took over last year, they are working with us,” Litchfield said, to ensure effective road maintenance.

Ice is difficult to remove from shady roads, he said, though the Lucas brothers are pretreating some of them.

Litchfield also mentioned that the Maine Department of Transportation is holding several workshops on winter road maintenance that he will attend.

“If there’s an issue, (residents) can call me, call the Town Office and we’ll call the Lucas boys and respond,” Litchfield said. “Driver responsibility is also an issue.”

Board Chairman Kelly Stewart, however, was angry with Standard’s letter.

“I found this to be exceptionally insulting,” she said, adding that Sumner residents care about one another. “I don’t find the language in this letter to be very caring.”

Stewart asked Planning Board member Andy Wickson his thoughts.

“I can tell you the roads in Sumner aren’t any different than any other towns in Oxford County,” he said. “(Plow drivers are) up for hours and hours dealing with this.” 

Wickson challenged Standard to ride with a plow driver for 30 hours.

“I know nothing about plowing,” Standard admitted. He said he worries about the town’s liability from accident victims.

Litchfield said the town followed the Maine Municipal Association’s liability policy and is not at risk of lawsuits due to road conditions.

smoore@advertiserdemocrat.com

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