New bylaw would give private roads regular maintenance schedule
Not having private roads on a regular maintenance schedule poses a public safety risk, according to Ed Pacewicz, and he wants to change that through a new bylaw.
Pacewicz and others will step forward at Town Meeting with a proposal that would require the town to repair private roads twice a year.
“This is a public safety issue to make sure the roads are in safe and ready passage for the emergency vehicles to the residents and it's the responsibility of the town to address the issue,” said Pacewicz.
However, the potential cost has concerned some town officials.
The biggest question is how much more money the town would have to spend provide that service. That's why both Selectmen and the Finance Committee voted for further study of the article.
“There has been no impact information provided,” said Town Administrator Derek Sullivan. “It would be practical to have a study committee put together a proper informational package.”
Under Wareham’s current system, if private road residents want repairs they must appear before Selectmen for approval and then pay for the cost of materials and labor. If the bylaw is adopted, residents would not pay for labor costs, just the cost of materials used to repair the roads.
Pacewicz's concern is that the article will be placed for further study and then forgotten. Time is of the essence for him and other residents on private roads since the Municipal Maintenance Department, which handles all road work for the town, adopted a new winter policy set to take effect in 2017.
The policy states that private roads will not be plowed unless they meet acceptable plowable road standards. Residents of private roads must submit a special form by Aug. 1 each year to be considered for the department’s private road plow list. All property owner/abutters must sign the petition form in order to receive winter maintenance.
If a private way does not pass inspection each year, residents must repair the road to the standard to have their roads plowed.
“Come November next year, there's going to be a problem plowing all those roads,” said Tropeano. “They don't even want to plow them if they've got ruts in them.”
The question of the town's responsibility for private roads has been an ongoing one.
Distinguishing public from private roads first became an issue in the spring of 2013 when officials discovered that the town had violated Massachusetts law by using public funds to plow private roads.
In 2014, voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot question to allow the town to continue to plow private roads open to public use. The town created a list of public and private ways since then.
"Public safety was the paramount concern here," said Teitelbaum before the 2014 Spring Town Meeting. "We can't put emergency services at risk when there is a foot of snow, increasing response times and risks for them to do their jobs."
Town Meeting is scheduled for Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. in the Wareham High School auditorium.