Two weeks after flooding from a record rainstorm receded, two Freeport homeowners are still struggling with the washout of their private road and the hefty cost of rebuilding it.
Beth Toothaker and Arleen Siegert-Young own the only homes on Turkey Ridge Lane, a short gravel track that leads from another private way onto land that is largely owned by Toothaker’s family. The storm washed away a section of their only access road and left them temporarily stranded.
While temporary repairs have made the road passable, it could cost up to $85,000 to replace the earthen roadway that was built over a culvert about 10 years ago to span the sloping banks of Alan Range Brook, and the residents are trying every avenue to defray the cost. The price of the project could be more than half the assessed value of Toothaker’s home, and more than one-third of the value of Siegert-Young’s home.
One of Toothaker’s friends has started a crowd-funding effort to raise money for the construction costs, whatever they turn out to be.
“Unless you’re a millionaire, I don’t think many people around here have that (kind of money) sitting in their back pocket,” said Siegert-Young, who along with her husband purchased land from the Toothakers to build their home about three years ago. The road was their only way onto the property, which is heavily wooded. The 5-foot-long culvert allowed water to pass beneath the road.
That was before nearly 6.5 inches of rain fell over several hours between Aug. 13 and Aug. 14, sending torrents of brown water and debris down the usually calm stream. The homeowners believe the culvert was blocked by debris, and soon the water rose nearly 20 feet to the top of the road surface.
“I never had imagined, in all these years, that the water would rise that high,” Toothaker said. “Certainly no one could save up that kind of money to have just in case.”
Siegert-Young, who was home during the storm, didn’t realize she was cut off from town until the next morning when she tried to drive out.
“I think your initial reaction is jaw-dropping, state of shock, ‘How can this even be possible?’ ” she said.
Without a way for the water to flow underneath, the mound of earth acted like a dam, with water swirling and eroding the road as it rose, Freeport Town Manager Peter Joseph said.
“We’re really trying to help them,” he said. “(But) we can’t spend public dollars on the rebuilding.”
The town sustained about $100,000 in damage to public roads and other town property from the storm. Crews have fixed every public street, but Joseph said private ways like Turkey Ridge Lane are not the city’s responsibility.
Still, the town is doing what it can to help the families, including using its website to promote the gofundme.com crowd-funding effort that one of Toothaker’s friends set up to help raise money for the rebuilding. With 10 days remaining, less than $1,000 has been raised, according to the site.
Toothaker is attempting to refinance her home so that she can pay to have some type of access built. Her property is assessed at less than $150,000 by the town, and Siegert-Young’s home is assessed at less than $215,000.
Toothaker also is exploring an alternate route that would avoid the brook, but would require an abutting landowner to grant her an easement. If the landowner agrees, the project would cost significantly less, she said, but she is in early discussions and nothing has been decided.
Siegert-Young is eager to find a solution for the road problem before winter sets in, and hired a contractor to smooth out the damage so she can get past the stream. But it’s only a temporary fix because oil and propane delivery trucks will not be able to reach her unless something more permanent is done.
“Plus, emergency services can’t get to me right now. If anything happened to me, no one could get to me,” she said.