NEW GLOUCESTER — The Maine Turnpike Authority is replacing the Snow Hill Road bridge over the Maine Turnpike beginning in mid-June with completion set for November, selectmen learned on Monday.

MTA spokesman Dan Morin told the board the $1.2 million project awarded to Wyman and Simpson of Richmond consists of replacing the bridge and raising the existing superstructure to provide a minimum vertical clearance of 15 feet 6 inches. The work will include repair of the existing abutments and piers, and reconstruction of approximately 850 feet of approaches to match the raised bridge structure.

The bridge will be closed to traffic beginning in mid-June. Suggested alternate routes include Chandler Mill Road and Lewiston Road.

The bridge was built in 1954 with an expected life span of between 50 to 70 years.

In other business, Jerry Witham and Debbie May addressed the board during the audience participation segment of the meeting.

Other residents in recent weeks joined the pair in requesting the board hold a third town meeting to re-vote the New Gloucester Upper Village Water Services Ordinance.

Some residents faulted how the Feb. 16 meeting was conducted, saying there was no time to ask questions, no paper ballots, no opportunity to vote for those who arrived late. Some said they couldn’t hear from the back of the Memorial School gymnasium and the meeting was held on a holiday weekend before school vacation week and no voter check-off or paper ballots were issued.

But selectmen turned the request down by a vote of 3 to 1, citing advice from town attorney Pat Scully, who said the Feb. 16 vote appears to be proper, valid and conclusive.

Town officials were notified last week by May and Witham that they had hired a lawyer.

Witham said three different petitions are being circulated. “The board wouldn’t listen to us. All we want is a fair vote, not a six-minute vote. I have an issue with not having a fair vote. I’m trying to get my point across and you’re not listening. “

“New Gloucester is forever changed,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Steve Libby said. In the future everyone must have registered to get into the room.

Witham would not state if he was in favor of the project. 

Witham and May are part of a group of citizens who are soliciting signatures from registered voters to repeal the ordinance that passed nearly unanimously on Feb. 16. That action reversed a prior vote held on Jan. 14, when the project was rejected 116 to 101.

Following the January special town meeting, selectmen, trustees of the New Gloucester Water District and citizens went back to the drawing board to address issues raised by the public and changes were made to the ordinance.

Libby said, “Over 200 people raised their hands in favor of this project (on Feb. 16). For a few nonregistered voters who raised their hand, it’s a non-issue,” he said.

Witham said 10 people raised funds and sought legal advise on the issue.

“Seeking legal advise against the town is a very serious thing,” Witham said.

May said she started her opposition before the February special town meeting, objecting to the weekend and holiday weekend date.

“I never once said I’m opposed to the water district. I’m opposed to the process,” she said.

“I don’t like the word ‘repeal,’ but that’s the best way to do a repeal to get another vote,” she said. “The attorney (hired by the group) said this is how it has to be written. I am trying to do things friendly. I want a reasonable opportunity to vote. All the people who couldn’t think in seven seconds, said ‘what’s going on?’ That’s where my problem is. It’s not against the water district. Our attempt is to get a fair vote, not to repeal.”

Libby said there are unintended consequences of a petition to repeal. It does cause a division, he said. 

Selectman Nat Berry said, “I have listened to you carefully, and I get that deep feeling you people are upset we didn’t vote the way you wanted.”

“Everyone was disappointed by our friendly request,” May said.

Resident Dennis McCann said, “I want to thank the citizens of New Gloucester who came out to vote. Thanks to those who listened up and put our plans aside and voted. Finally we are going to get people safe drinking water. My family and I are behind this project 100 percent.”

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