Selectmen hear pros, cons of MDOT project

Posted:  Wednesday, November 22, 2017 - 8:15am
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The Wiscasset select board got an earful during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting. Over 50 residents crowded into the hearing room.

For over 30 minutes, residents spoke passionately for and against the Maine Department of Transportation’s $5 million downtown project. Nancy Roby of Federal Street began the conservation saying she was among the majority of Wiscasset residents who voted in favor of Option 2, one of three MDOT proposed in March 2016. Option 2 included eliminating Main Street parking.

“It feels insulting to me that groups of people are saying we didn’t know what we were voting on,” she said. “I don’t want my tax dollars used for this court action.” Roby was referring to the select board’s 3-2 vote Nov. 7 to begin legal proceedings to force MDOT to reconsider the elimination of Main Street parking and the demolition of the Haggett building to create a parking lot.

Cordelia Oehmig, associate director of Wiscasset Bay Gallery on Main Street, said MDOT’s project manager had recently met individually with some downtown business owners and not others. She felt it would have been better to have had all the business owners together at one public meeting the select board could have attended.

Brad Sevaldson, co-owner of BIRCH on Main Street, wondered why any of the business owners would pass up the opportunity to talk one-on-one with the project manager.

Sherri Dunbar, a longtime resident, was troubled with the continued bickering over the project  “It’s really sad to see what’s going on. It’s so divisive … I don’t support my tax dollars going to pay attorney fees to fight the state.”

PAC member Seaver Leslie said he believed MDOT could present a plan that included Main Street parking and safely move traffic through town during the 10 weeks of summer when it’s the heaviest. Leslie felt some parts of MDOT’s plan had merit but should be implemented on a trial basis in accordance with the Sensible Transportation Act.

Former selectman Judy Flanagan questioned the board’s decision to seek legal action against MDOT. Flanagan said she was “amazed” not to hear one board member ask how much the litigation might cost the town, or if there was enough money within the legal line to cover the cost.

Later it was stated the town had already spent $31,183 as a party of interest in Wawenock, LLC litigation’s against MDOT.

“What you did at your last meeting– with no discussion– was not good leadership,” continued Flanagan. Because the item was not on the posted agenda, she strongly urged the board to reconsider its  vote.

Ann Scanlan, director of Sylvan Gallery on Water Street, said she didn’t know of any Maine town that didn’t have Main Street parking. “You should support the businesses. If it takes a lawsuit then you should pursue it.”

In another matter, Shaye Paradis a school counselor at Wiscasset Middle High School, said the school department didn’t need a part-time SRO, or even the full-time SRO it has now. “What we really need are more counselors and special ed. teachers to work with the students that need help.”

Paradis was speaking about the school department’s plans to launch a new special education program for area students with behavior issues.