SOUTH PARIS — The Oxford County Board of Commissioners heard from a state official Tuesday that rural municipalities might choose to lose their incorporated status because the residents can’t afford taxes to maintain or replace their infrastructure.

Some small communities in Aroostook and Franklin counties have chosen to dissolve their local government through deorganization.

“We’ve been working a little bit with the (Maine Department of Transportation) on several communities that are considering deorganizing,” said Marcia McInnis, the state’s fiscal administrator of the unorganized territory office. “They have told us that within the next three to five years, they’re going to start grading bridges by average daily traffic count. And those bridges that are under 100 (average daily traffic count), they’re considering moving to the municipality,” which would pay maintenance costs.

McInnis told commissioners she was referring to bridges that are now maintained by the state.

“It’s been a reason why some of the communities are considering deorganizing because their bridges are in very bad repair,” McInnis said. “They don’t have the money to repair all the bridges. Some of these haven’t been addressed because the traffic counts are low. I got the strong impression (the state) will probably be moving those (responsibilities) … not only in the unorganized territories, but also plantations and small municipalities.”

McInnis’ comments came on the heels of a briefing by Oxford County Administrator Scott Cole regarding the urgent need to replace three unorganized territory bridges in the county, two in Mason Township and one in Riley Township.

A 50-foot-long folding bridge is expected to be delivered soon that will be be a temporary bridge while a stone culvert is replaced on Kings Highway in Mason. After that, it will become a permanent bridge replacement in Riley. A structure on Meadowbrook Bridge Road in Mason will be replaced with new work.

Cole said that 2016 major capital projects in the county’s unorganized territory have been approved for almost $600,000.

“It’s the year of the bridge now,” Cole said.

Cole said the county has 19 townships, three of which have measurable population: Albany, Mason and Milton.

Oxford County has 36 incorporated municipalities, Cole said. The townships are outside those 36, and they are collectively known as the unorganized territory.

“There is some murmuring from some of the smaller towns about ‘what does deorganization look like?’” Cole said. “But there’s nothing official here with Oxford County. We’re not aware of any towns that are looking at deorganization.

“Basically, you’re taking a piece of land defined as a municipality and you’re transferring the responsibility for delivering municipal services — you’re transferring that to a different entity. The county is the steward, but at the behest of the state government.”

The state does the legwork to tax properties in the unorganized territories and transfers a portion of the money collected to the county, Cole said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.