Arundel voters asked to fix culvert
ARUNDEL — As Arundel selectmen work to finalize the annual town budget that will go before voters in June, they have not exactly been hit with a flood of late spending requests, but there is one that does involve a lot of water.
Selectmen were due to meet with the budget board on Wednesday, April 12 to hammer out final recommendations on the warrant articles. That meeting took place after the deadline for this week’s Post.
According to Town Manager Keith Trefethen, the municipal portion of the draft budget is actually down $51,821 (or 1.63 percent) to $3.12 million. There’s also a $7,009 increase to the town’s tax paid to York County, which not rings in at $270,120. Much larger is Arundel’s share of RSU 21’s operating budget, which is up 7.9 percent this year, to $4.87 million, assuming that budget also is approved by voters. The school need alone promises to add 82 cents per $1,000 of assess value to local property tax bills.
However, Trefethen says that by the time tax bills are sent, new property values should mitigate the final impact to residents.
“As you know the mil rate is not set until August, but conservatively we anticipate an increase in the town’s value that will assist in the mil rate adjustment,” he wrote in an April 10 email to the Post. “We hope that we will be around $15.47 from $15.12, or [an increase of] around 34 cents.”
An overall 34-cent increase to the mil rate would add $68 to the tax bill on the median single-family home in Arundel, assessed at $200,000.
But those calculations do not account for the possible addition by voters at town meeting of a second patrol deputy to the Arundel’s contracted service with the York County’s Sheriff’s Office.
“An article which will appear on the town warrant with a no recommendation from both the board of selectmen and the budget board is the additional contract deputy,” Trefethen wrote. “If the townspeople decided to approve this funding we would have to add an additional $136,240 to the overall [budget].”
It also does not include $5,000 selectmen voted unanimously Monday night to add to the warrant.
That spending article came at the request of Curtis Road resident Matt Tardiff and his neighbor Steve Pelletier.
They live on a portion of the gravel road that is a public easement. According to them, work done last year to clear ditching and install new driveway culverts on the section of the road owned by the town, along with recent heavy rains, have combined to overflow a culvert underneath the road between their houses.
“I think the culvert has failed, rather than reached its capacity,” Trefethen advised selectmen, recounting a visit he and Public Works Director Roger Taschereau paid to the site last week. “The water was high and still flowing a little bit, and you really couldn’t tell the beginning or end of the culvert. On what looked like the discharge end water was swirling off the top of the road into the culvet.”
“I’m sure any work we did further up has put more water down there, but to me it’s pretty obvious it’s failed. There’s a sinkhole that’s starting to show up on the surface,” Taschereau said, noting that some of the road also has been washed away by the high waters.
“It’s passable right now, but I bet it won’t be sooner or later,” he said.
The culvert is thought to date to 1966.
“I think your grandfather put that in,” Selectboard Chairman Velma Hayes told Taschereau.
Ordinarily, it would be no problem for the town to replace a broken culvert. However, because that section of road is a public easement, not a town way, Trefethen said work can’t be done until money for it is approved by voters.
“We are not allowed to expend any funds there,” he said. “It’s a simple job, but there’s nothing I can do unless the authority is granted to us.”
Selectboard Chairman Velma Hayes said no town meeting vote like this has ever been requested in her memory.
“The efforts [to repair the road] are beyond us,” Tardiff said. “The culvert there has been in pretty rough shape, but with the new traffic that it’s getting from the system that was put in at the top of the road, you can almost kayak on the river that’s created. All this additional water, it just can’t handle it. It’s flooding over and it’s taking the base of the road from underneath the gravel right away.”
Taschereau said the culvert is about 800 feet beyond “the secret maple tree” that marks the end of the town-owed section of road. He estimated the cost of a new pipe at $2,500, with a total project cost of around $5,000.
If voters approve the spending, town road crews will do the work to replace the culvert and replace the road, Trefethen said.
“If we put this on the warrant, does this set a precedent for other things down the road?” Selectman Dan Dubois asked.
Trefethen did not venture a prediction on that question, answering instead, “Right now we’re getting to a point where, if it fails entirely, these citizens may not have an ability to get in to their properties over this road.”
“And it’s not just them, it’s emergency services,” Dubois agreed.
According to Tardiff, there are five homes affected by the potential washout.
“We have four little kids up there,” he said. “Right now, you can barely get a car through there. I just want to be able to get into my home.”
Although Trefethen and Taschereau maintained the problem was a broken culvert, the Curtis Road residents continued to say that, while the drain may indeed need to be replaced, the true culprit is increase water flow from work down by the town uphill from their location.
“What was there before was kind of marshy, but now it’s a pond,” Pelletier said. “There will be bass in there this spring.”
“It kind of scares me that it comes to a vote of the town as to whether I can get into my driveway or not,” Tardiff said.
“We understand that, but it’s not our land. It’s not our road,” Dubois said.
“Unfortunately, the law on this is very clear,” Trefethen said. “Our hands are tied until we get a vote. If we get it, then we can go ahead and make some repairs for you.”
“So, if the town makes repairs to the public side of the road, and it impacts the private side, it’s kind of tough luck, we go to a vote?” Tardiff asked.
“Yeah,” said Trefethen, after a moment’s pause.
“It’s public money on private property,” Selectman Phil Labbe said.
“You understand we’re kind of hamstrung. We have to go to voters. Hopefully, you can last until June,” Selectman Thomas Danylik said.
“But if I did this I’d go to court and lose,” Tardiff said. “I can’t just ruin someone else’s property to better mine.”
“You’d be surprised,” said Danylik, an attorney by trade.
After about 20 minutes of discussion, selectmen voted unanimously to put the question to voters on the town meeting warrant.
“Make sure you bring everyone you know to town meeting,” Hayes advised Tardiff and Pelletier.
Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.