FRYEBURG — Residents of Stow say they are tired of the dangerous conditions on Kezar Lake Road — gravel dumped on what’s left of the old pavement, potholes, washboarding, rocks sticking out of the ground, standing water due to the lack of crowning and an exposed culvert.

Town officials say the road is safe.

Residents took their complaints to the Oxford County Commission on Friday, hoping the board will order the town to fix the road.

The three commissioners — Timothy Turner of Buckfield, Steven Merrill of Norway and David Duguay of Byron — drove on and inspected the disputed 1.1-mile section of road from the Stow-Fryeburg town line to Pigeon Hill Road. Afterward,  they held a four-hour hearing at the Fryeburg Fairgrounds with lawyers representing both sides. After the presentation of opening statements, both sides offered witnesses who gave testimony and were cross-examined.

The hearing was recessed before closing statements after county attorney James Pross, who presided over the hearing, asked whether the petitioners had provided Stow officials at least a five-day notice before filing their complaint with the county.

When town attorney Peter Malia said he wasn’t prepared to answer the question, Pross ended the proceedings until the commissioners’ next meeting in June.


It was the first time in at least 15 years the commission has met as the court of county commissioners and heard testimony, Turner said.

Sally Daggett, the attorney for the petitioners, said Kezar Lake Road is a town way, meaning that it must be maintained by the town and be “safe and convenient” for motor vehicle traffic year-round, according to Maine law. She described the town’s fixes as “cosmetic.” Vehicles drive on the wrong side of the road to avoid the rocks and potholes, and the dust creates blinding conditions, she said.

Daggett added that it is not a valid defense for the town to say they don’t have enough money to fix the road.

“My clients are taxpayers,” Daggett said. “They don’t want to see tax dollars wasted on cosmetic fixes that don’t last.”

The town had done some maintenance on the road two weeks before the hearing, putting down gravel, grading the road and filling some potholes.

“I don’t think anybody will say the road is unsafe and inconvenient today,” Malia said at the start of his opening statement.


He said that according to state law, commissioners can only consider the condition of the road on the day of the hearing and on the day the petition was filed with the county, which was mid-September 2020. If the residents can prove that the road was unsafe last September, the only thing commissioners can do is to rule that the town must reimburse the county for the cost of the hearing.

Paul Buckley, the lead name on the petition and one of three Stow homeowners to testify against the town, has owned property in a private development off Kezar Lake Road for nearly 30 years. He said the road was paved when he purchased the property but has deterioated with parts of the asphalt washing away.

He said the town’s repairs are cosmetic and barely last two months. The road also has a 26,000-pound weight limit year-round, which creates issues if a homeowner wants loam, gravel or furniture delivered.

Daggett called Ross Cudlitz, owner of Engineering Assistance and Design of Yarmouth as an expert witness. Cudlitz described his examination of the road in April. He said he found false shoulders and no ditch.

“I’ve never seen a road with gravel placed on top of pavement,” Cudlitz said. The remaining pavement is the biggest factor in the recurring washboarding and potholes, he said. He added that the 26,000-pound weight limit is “ludicrous.”

The town called one witness, Selectman Jim Wilfong, who has tried to fill the role as road commissioner, a position Stow has not filled for several years.


Wilfong described his work and the town’s efforts to improve their 8.7 miles of town roads. Since 2019, the road budget has increased from $60,000 to $110,000 in 2020, to $157,000 for 2021, which represents 17% of the town’s budget.

He said the roadwork two weeks ago was normal spring maintenance and not done to make conditions look better before the hearing. The town used a lot of materials, rolled it and graded it, he said.

Wilfong added that the budget includes $25,780 for gravel, grading and ditch-digging to improve drainage.

“Our goal is to always make sure our roads are safe,” Wilfong said. “We’re trying hard and doing the best we can.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. 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.