HARTFORD — The state Department of Transportation has advised the town of Hartford to block off and close the bridge between Hartford and Sumner that runs across Abbott Pond Road in Sumner. 

Lee Holman, selectboard chair, recalls a, “previous select board that had wanted to tear it out.”  She said, however, that a structural engineer who had taken a look at the bridge with Holman, had written a letter to the town stating that, “there’s structurally nothing wrong with that bridge.” 

The board had received a letter suggesting that the bridge be closed citing safety concerns, but as Holman pointed out, the bridge is, “some people’s only way to get to their properties.  It would landlock a whole bunch of properties which would cause a huge issue for us and for Sumner.” 

Holman observed that if properties are landlocked it would cause issues with valuation, and “they [Sumner] would have to put in another bridge … it could possibly even be even considered a taking, which doesn’t go over well with taxpayers.”

A taking is enshrouded against impunity by the U.S. Constitution’s 5th Amendment to limit the reach of eminent domain by calling for compensation to the bereaved in the event the state must seize lands.  Landlocked landowners could pursue compensation if that were to happen.

Safety Policy 

Safety Policies for all the town properties need to be carefully examined, according to Holman who said they would be checking with other towns to learn how they handled safety.

“Each of us [selectboard members] were essentially assigned a town.  We’ll go to those towns and say, ‘Can I have a copy of your town’s safety policies?’ We don’t need to reinvent the wheel … We can survey the good works other towns have done and craft our safety policies accordingly.” The town is looking to model its policies off those of other area towns and will codify them once an agreement has been made.

Broadband

Holman had attended a discussion in Bryant Pond on bringing broadband internet access to Hartford.  There she met with the Western Maine Economic Development council who informed Holman on broadband options for the town in light of a scant population. 

“The big companies have no particular interest in serving us,” said Holman, “if they wanted to they’d already be doing it.” Holman notes that the lack of high-speed internet access is noticeably impacting the town’s economy.  According to Ookla, a company that tests software and broadband connections for speed across the U.S., Maine is amongst the slowest states in the country when it comes to internet speeds and access.

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