PARIS — Oxford County commissioners spent nearly an hour Tuesday morning discussing whether they should build a bridge for residents of a plot of unorganized territory in northern Oxford County.

County Administrator Scott Cole explained Tuesday that county commissioners were informally petitioned by a number of property owners in “north country” to look at a situation at Aldrich Brook Crossing on Lincoln Pond Road in Parkertown.

“Lincoln Pond Road runs up the east side of Aziscohos Lake,” Cole said after the meeting. “It’s a private road. Apparently, there was a culvert in place for a long time that did the job. Some time around 2011 or 2012, Trout Unlimited made an effort to remove the culvert to allow better fish passage.”

He said that an “undersized bridge” was put in place of the culvert, and “the bridge did a poor job.”

“It only lasted for about three or four years, and then it became unsafe,” Cole said. “The bridge ended up being blocked and removed. Now the core issue is that there’s no bridge allowing the camp owners to get in and out. Instead, they have to go a roundabout way to get out.”

Cole said several of the landowners in Parkertown, home to about 65 camps, asked the county to help them have a bridge built.

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“I’ve done a site walk with a road agent. We inspected the situation and we believe that a bridge can be built there,” Cole said. “Subject to amendments, we believe the best approach is a prefabricated bridge with an engineer stamp, and shoring up the abutments and the footings on either side of the chasm.”

He said that the money would not come from the same budget that the county uses to fund salaries or county projects, but would instead be funded by “money representing property taxes collected off of unorganized territory property.”

Legal opinions

Cole said that Bryan Dench, the county attorney, “feels that the state law and precedent allows the commissioners to put in and fund the bridge,” though the state’s director of unorganized territory said that she is “not in agreement” with Dench’s legal opinion.

“If the legislature wants to attach a prohibition to the next block of money coming from the unorganized territory budget, then we won’t do it, but short of that, if the commissioners give the order to put a bridge in, we’re putting a bridge in,” Cole said on Wednesday.

Sarah Medina, land use director of Seven Islands Land Company, which owns land in Lincoln Plantation below Parkertown, said that the camp owners on Lincoln Pond Road used the company’s land to access the previous bridge before it was removed, adding that “they do not have deeded access to our land to get to the bridge.”

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“They do it by permission by landowners,” she said. “I understand their desire to have a bridge, and to have someone pay for it, but I’m very concerned about the county using public funds to pay for a bridge on private land. Despite the ruling you got from your attorneys, ours do not believe the county has the right to spend the money, and also feel it’s a dangerous precedent to set.”

She suggested that the camp owners on Lincoln Pond Road pursue grant money through different services, and that they should “have a stake in it and fund some of this themselves.”

Medina told the commissioners that there was a “code of the woods” that residents in unorganized territories follow.

“In Maine, when you buy land in an unorganized territory, you have to expect a lower level of service than you would elsewhere,” Medina said. “If I lived there, I’d feel the same way. I’d want someone else to pay for the bridge, but I don’t think it’s appropriate.”

A safety issue

Dave Driscoll, a camp owner in Parkertown since 1980, said: “One of our concerns is that we have one access point in and out of there, and if it were to wash out, we’d have no way out. It’s a safety issue.”

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Commissioner David Duguay said that while he believed there should be a bridge at the Aldrich Brook Crossing for several reasons, he is “not sure we’re the right venue to do this.”

“We’ve already spent thousands of dollars in legal fees, and we haven’t even done anything yet,” Duguay said. “We also have the state’s director of unorganized territories questioning whether or not we can do it.”

Driscoll asked Cole whether the county could rely on eminent domain to build the bridge.

“The county commissioners always have that as a final alternative, if they feel it’s important to the public interest,” Cole said. “Short of that, the legal opinion of our county attorney feels that the bridge can be put in place without the use of eminent domain.”

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Landowners in Parkertown Township are asking the Oxford County Commissioners to fund a bridge over Aldrich Brook after the previous one was removed several years ago. The landowners say that it is “a safety issue,” as there is only one other way in and out of the unorganized territory. The above photo is of the Aldrich Brook bridge before it was removed.  (Photo, Mollyockett Chapter of Trout Unlimited)


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