PARIS — A Kittery couple disputing the ownership of a road running through their land wants to enter mediation with the Oxford County Commission, which also claims to own the road.

Commissioners voted to table the issue until they could speak with a lawyer on the issue.

On Monday, Cameron Wake and Celina Adams appeared before the commission to reiterate the point sent last month through their lawyer, David Soley of Bernstein Shur: They want to submit the dispute to mediation and split the cost of hiring a retired judge or current attorney to reach a mutually-acceptable agreement.

“We want to get beyond opinion and conjecture and get to the facts of the matter,” Adams told the commission. She called for a “substantive conversation, looking at all the research that has been done and coming to an amenable conclusion.”

The commission was reluctant to pay half the cost for mediation. “The burden of proof is not on the county,” Commissioner Steve Merrill said.

“I’m not sure that’s the best use of taxpayer dollars,” Merrill said.

Soley wrote to the commission that if they’re forced to litigate, mediation will be necessary before a trial begins. If the commission chooses to mediate and mediation fails, the earlier mediation will count as the court-mandated mediation.

Adams and Wake paid for an investigation by Belding Survey LLC of Harrison, which concluded that their section of Tyler Road in Mason Township had last been maintained in 1959 or 1960 and by Maine law fit the requirements of statutory abandonment. In Maine, a road that hasn’t been maintained for 30 years is the private property of a landowner who owns both sides of the road, as Adams and Wake do.

County Administrator Scott Cole and the commissioners have maintained that when the U.S. Forest Service performed maintenance on the road in the early 1980s, they were working as agents of the county and that the work constitutes county maintenance.

The issue surfaced in 2009 when the county gave the U.S. Forest Service permission to fix up the road to allow timber trucks down the road for a timber sale on land the Forest Service owns beyond Wake and Adams’ property.

Adams and Wake say the road is a right of way and they don’t mind the Forest Service using it for access. However, they remain opposed to widening and resurfacing work Forest Service officials say is necessary to allow access to the large trucks.

The next commissioners meeting is March 15.

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