A private road in the area of Gray where a secession effort is under way may receive long-sought maintenance from the town, according to the preliminary municipal budget.
The town of Gray has $56,000 in its 2016-2017 budget for maintenance on a private section of Gore Road, located on the western side of Little Sebago Lake. Disputes regarding maintenance of the road was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” leading to the secession movement, according to David Getchell, a member of the Gray Secession Committee.
Jennifer White, the spokeswoman for the committee, said the town’s plan to fix the roadway, however, is not enough for the group to reconsider pursuing secession.
“The $56,000 is a drop in the bucket,” said White. “And it won’t take care of the issues that we have that pushed us to secession.”
Matt Sturgis, chairman of the Gray Town Council, said the money was added to the budget before the town was aware of the secession effort.
The money for Gore Road maintenance – included in the budget’s capital improvement fund – was discussed briefly at the council’s first budget meeting last week. Sturgis said it’s too early to say whether the money will be included in the final budget, but it will be discussed again at another budget meeting on Monday, March 7.
According to Maine law, public funds cannot be used for maintenance on private roads. Sturgis said the council will be working to determine whether and how the town can legitimately spend money for work on a private road.
White said the secession committee knew about the funds to improve Gore Road during their initial discussions of the secession effort.
In mid-February, White and four other Gray residents announced an effort to break away the area that includes Gore Road and the Little Sebago Lodges Association. The committee’s ultimate goal is to join Raymond, White said, citing in part the area’s proximity to Raymond and Raymond’s lower tax rate.
Gore Road is largely a public road that runs through both Gray and Raymond. According to Gray town documents, about two-tenths of a mile of Gore Road, an area with six homeowners, is private. Getchell, who also serves as road chairman of the Little Sebago Lodges Association, said the stretch of private road is in poor condition and badly needs repairs.
Sharon Young, a board member of Little Sebago Lodges, who is opposed to the secession movement, said the road association approached the town last fall about improving Gore Road. More residents of the area joined the discussions, she said, but at the time the town did not reach any conclusions about what could be done to improve the road.
After the completion of the engineering study later in the season, the town came up with a sum of $56,000 to fix the road.
Young said the effort by Gray to explore options for fixing the road shows the town is concerned about the needs of residents on the west side of the lake.
“We don’t feel that way,” said White.
Even if the money is approved by the town, she said, “it won’t hinder the secession movement.”
Young agreed with Getchell that the Gore Road maintenance dispute was an impetus for secession, but she said fixing Gore Road should be the focus, not secession. To that effect, Young said, she and a few residents of Gray are organizing in opposition to the secession movement.
Young said the group is collecting signatures to show the town the number of people opposed to secession, and sharing information with their neighbors about reasons to remain with Gray.
“The issue is about more than just the tax rate,” said Young, “and there needs to be another side to provide information.”
Sturgis said he hopes people in secession territories will take the town’s effort to improve the road into consideration, “but I should hope that’s not the only reason to decide to maintain citizenship in the town of Gray,” he said.
Members of the secession committee met with Raymond Town Manager Don Willard about a week before announcing their effort to secede, seeking information about the town of Raymond, Willard said.
Willard said the town has not met with the secession committee since that time, and said the issue is in Gray’s hands for now.
“The first effort will be for Gray to address their concerns,” Willard said.