Rough road ahead for Unaccepted Way Bylaw
When it comes to the Unaccepted Way Bylaw, Wareham’s Board of Road Commissioners is facing a bumpy road.
Board members Bill Heaney, Dave Menard and John McGonnell presented a powerpoint presentation explaining the bylaw to the Wareham Selectmen Tuesday night.
If adopted at Town Meeting, the bylaw would allow residents living on roads that are unaccepted by the town due to various requirements to opt into having town resources maintain their streets.
Approving the bylaw would also mean that the residents of those roads would need to pay for town labor and materials. The costs would be split evenly between all dwellings on the road, with a maximum cost of $400 per dwelling, per project. Projects exceeding that cost limit would place the road on the town’s "do not plow" list until the project is fixed by the town or the abutters.
The bylaw would require 5 percent of road abutters to request opting into the maintenance program; however, 51 percent of abutters would need to sign a petition in order to opt back out.
This last point caused contention amongst the Selectmen.
“The five percent opt-in option is not good. On a road with 20 houses, why should one person make the decision for everyone? It should be changed to 51 percent needed to opt in, and 51 percent needed to opt out," said Selectman Peter Teitelbaum.
Selectman Alan Slavin questioned the sustainability of the bylaw.
“Maintenance crews are already behind on maintaining the accepted public roads,” he pointed out, addressing Menard, who is the Director of Municipal Maintenance. “If you’re backlogged on accepted roads, how do you plan to do the extra work if the budget is cut again?”
Menard told him that Municipal Maintenance was only planning to work on the most pressing maintenance issues.
“We won’t be trimming all the trees back. But we need to clear out the trees that are growing in the middle of some roads," he explained.
“Originally this bylaw was only asking for maintenance of private, unaccepted roads, and then somehow plowing also came up,” said Selectman Patrick Tropeano. “I feel that this bylaw is just overkill for something as simple as cleaning and grading once or twice per year.”
The Board of Selectmen chose to table a vote on the Road Commission’s revision of the proposed bylaw, giving the Board of Road Commissioners more time to address concerns.
Although the Selectmen’s decision was tabled, Teitelbaum was hopeful that a successful conclusion could be reached. “The Road Commission has heard some of our concerns, and they have a lot of time left to address concerns and make amendments," he stated.