AUGUSTA — A family that sued the city last week seeking to maintain access to their hillside Boothby Street home by driving across the Public Works site off North Street still would be able to do so under a proposed agreement discussed Wednesday by lawyers for the city and homeowners.

The proposal, which would be subject to approval by city councilors, would allow the Poulin family to reach their home by crossing the public works property on a limited basis — but only during the day, when the facility is open, and only if they let Public Works officials know they’re coming ahead of time.

The agreement was proposed after discussion in a judicial settlement conference, conducted Wednesday by Superior Court Chief Justice Roland Cole. 

The Boothby Street residents, who say their family has driven across the city property safely to get to and from their home for 70 years, sued the city of Augusta to prevent it from blocking off their access across the Public Works site. The suit alleges that if the city makes good on a warning that it would block access to their driveway at the end of this month, it will jeopardize their safety by cutting off the only access they have to their home other than a steep flight of 100 stairs from Boothby Street. Two of the homes’ three residents have disabilities and mobility problems.

City attorney Stephen Langsdorf said Wednesday that the city, as long as the family complies with the terms of the proposed agreement, would not block the residents’ access to the home when the month ends Friday, at least not until city councilors consider whether to approve the agreement at their next meeting, scheduled for Dec. 6.

Bryant said the lawsuit still is moving forward, and if councilors don’t approve the proposed agreement, or the city and the family can’t reach an agreement for a longer-term license allowing them some access to their driveway, the lawsuit will proceed.

Langsdorf said the agreement is an attempt to balance the needs of the family with the need for safety and security at the Public Works site, where large dump trucks are filled with sand and salt and pieces of heavy, expensive equipment are regularly on the move.

“City councilors are very concerned about safety and security on that site,” Langsdorf said. “They see this as a dangerous situation. When you turn (inside the Public Works site, to access the Poulin’s driveway across it) the salt and sand building is right there. You drive right through the yard, and that’s where trucks are loading salt and sand. You’ve got 15 different dump trucks.

Langsdorf said as part of the agreement, the Poulins also would sign a waiver of liability, agreeing that they would not sue the city if something happens to them while crossing the property.

Bryant said the city, under the proposed agreement, also would work with the family to help them find options to repair and upgrade the stairs to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Improvements, such as having a chairlift installed, would make the stairs more accessible for the homeowners.

Langsdorf, however, said the city’s role with the stairs would be limited to having an engineer provide an assessment of needed repairs and helping the family find grant funding to help make the repairs. He said no city funds would — or could — be spent upgrading the privately owned stairs.

The home, with an address of 74 Boothby St., was built in 1948 by Robert Poulin’s father. Robert Poulin has lived in the home all his life. Monique Poulin said it has been primarily accessed all that time by cutting across what was first the city dump, and since the 1970s the Public Works headquarters, to a driveway that leads to the family’s home at ground level.

An attorney for the family said they had no choice but to sue the city to prevent their access from being blocked, for their own safety. The lawsuit states that if the city were to block the driveway, the family would have no vehicular access to the home, nor would an ambulance be able to drive to the home; and that without being able to drive to and from her residence, Monique Poulin could lose her job.

 


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