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2/20/2014 11:23:00 AM
Damariscotta Selectmen Extend Winter Roads Contracts; Chairman Abstains
J.W. Oliver

Hagar Enterprises Inc. will continue to clear Damariscotta roads for at least two more winters.

The Damariscotta Board of Selectmen voted 4-0-1 to exercise town options to extend its contracts with the business Feb. 19.

Chairman Josh Pinkham abstained from the vote. His decision to abstain follows a difference of opinion with Hagar Enterprises Inc. Vice Presidents Seth Hagar and Justin Hagar at a previous meeting.

Josh Pinkham read a statement at the Feb. 19 meeting announcing his decision to abstain.

"It is my belief that it is in the best interests of the town, based on my years of experience as both a town official and a local businessman, that we continue to look for the most cost-effective means to maintain the safety of our roads," he said.

The options for the winter roads contracts have both "merit and flaws, and each selectman, including myself, appropriately has voiced criticism, praise, concern and issues regarding the options available," he said.

"Recent events have distracted from the focus of this job," he said. "To keep the best interests of the town protected and avoid any distractions from the task at hand, I am abstaining from this vote on the potential contract extension options, and will turn over control of the discussion to my vice chair."

He sat in the audience during the subsequent conversation and votes.

Selectman Vicki Pinkham voted for the extensions, a change from the previous meeting. She voted to request bids for the roads contract Feb. 10.

After the vote to extend the contracts, she moved to send a notice of violation to Hagar Enterprises Inc. and instruct the business to cease use of the town sand-and-salt shed for non-municipal purposes. The motion failed, 3-1.

Damariscotta contracts Hagar Enterprises to clear most Damariscotta roads and sidewalks at an annual cost of $194,244.27. The Damariscotta business also has a state contract to clear Business Route 1, the main artery through Damariscotta.

The board will review and vote on amendments to the contracts, possibly at its next meeting.

The amendments would allow Hagar Enterprises to use the sand-and-salt shed for non-municipal use and pay the contractor $2,500 to add certain areas of the back parking lot to the contract.

Vicki Pinkham spoke against the amendments.

"I think the town crew could continue to plow and sand the areas that aren't covered in the contract with Hagar," she said. "It might not be the most efficient or convenient method, but we have a town crew and I think we should utilize it."

Damariscotta shares two full-time public works employees with Newcastle. The towns currently have only one active employee, as department head Steve Reynolds is recovering from a workplace injury.

The small crew already struggles to complete all its responsibilities for snowplowing, according to Damariscotta Town Manager Matt Lutkus.

These responsibilities include certain sidewalks and town properties in the towns, and will likely expand as Damariscotta plans major sidewalk construction in 2014 and 2015.

"I think we can only expect so much in a short period of time," Lutkus said. "It would be one thing if we had a lengthy amount of time to get the work done, but we don't in the case of snowfall."

The parking lot presents an additional challenge, as the crew has to coordinate its efforts with Hagar Enterprises.

The Damariscotta Board of Selectmen will next meet at 5 p.m., Wednesday, March 5 at the Damariscotta town office.

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