Gov. Paul LePage says he can’t help provide financial assistance for repairs on private roads in rural Somerset County damaged by flash flooding in late June, but members of his administration could offer technical expertise to local road associations in the unorganized territory.

The governor, in a letter sent to Somerset County commissioners and local lawmakers Tuesday, put the onus on the Legislature to convene a special session to consider an emergency bill.

More than a dozen miles of roads in the unorganized territory between The Forks and Jackman were damaged in the June 28 flash flooding, initially trapping some residents and camp owners, exposing boulders and creating craters making roads largely impassable. The cost of repairs has been estimated at up to $100,000 for at least one road association, and tens of thousands of dollars for others.

“After carefully reviewing the private road damage and the state budget, the executive branch is unable to provide financial assistance with the repairs, as the Legislature is the only branch of government that can appropriate money,” LePage wrote.

Sen. Rod Whittemore, R-Skowhegan, who was sent a copy of the letter but said Wednesday that he had not read it yet, was not sure what kind of funding could be proposed through the Legislature.

“The governor is the one that would have to sign it and prove where the funds are coming from, so it would be best if he (LePage) were to present a bill, and he shows a lot of interest in doing that,” Whittemore said. “That’s what I would like to see.”

Funding possibilities are limited because many of the roads are private and gated, but some are used by the Maine Forest Service and the Maine Warden Service, Whittemore said.

The affected network of roads includes Spencer Road, which is owned by timber company Weyerhauser and connects the area to U.S. Route 201; and several roads off it that are owned and managed by private road associations, including Old Spencer Road, View Road and No Road. Weyerhauser has since largely repaired Spencer Road.

Local, county and state officials have sympathized with the more than 100 property owners in the area off Spencer Road, but many also have hesitated to say what kind of assistance could be available since most of the affected roads are private and gated, though some are also used by the forest and warden services.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection; the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry; and the Land Use Planning Commission all have visited the damaged roads, according to LePage’s letter. The Department of Transportation also was in the area to repair damage to a bridge on U.S. Route 201 in the immediate aftermath of the storm, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture also is looking into whether it would be able to provide grant money to assist with repairs.

Last month, Somerset County commissioners sent a letter to the governor asking that discretionary funds be allotted for road repairs as well as a letter to the USDA seeking assistance via low-interest loans or grants.

Newell Graf, chairman of the Somerset County commissioners, said Wednesday that he had not seen the governor’s letter, and he did not return calls seeking comment later in the day.

The intention of the commissioners’ letter was to ask the governor for any type of assistance he might be able to provide, according to Vice Chairman Bobby Dunphy, who said Wednesday that he wasn’t sure whether calling the Legislature back into session was the appropriate response and that it would be premature to consider such action before having an emergency bill drafted.

He said questions remain about the legality of setting aside state money for repairs on roads that are largely private. Before state officials consider it, they should make sure they have exhausted opportunities for grants or low-interest loans, he said.

“I want to help them, but I want to do it legally,” Dunphy said. “I think that if the Legislature can do that, they would.”

Dan Baumert, a state conservation engineer with the USDA, said after touring the area last week that the area could qualify for a program that helps improve conservation practices in forested areas, but that more research was needed.

On No Road, one of the most severely damaged in the area, the No Road Owners Road Association already has made the road passable, but they are looking at about another $50,000 in repairs to get the road “back to where it was,” association President Ernie Shufelt said.

“If there was a bill or funding available so that fire personnel and the warden service could pass through, that would be great; but we can’t wait and hope for that, because it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen,” he said.

Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, who also wrote to the governor last month asking him to “do whatever you can” to help the area recover, said Wednesday he agreed that handing out state taxpayer money to private roads would set a bad precedent. Even so, McCabe said, the governor’s response this week does not do enough to address long-term issues of storm damage and access on private road systems.

“We really need to have a discussion about roads beyond this one event,” McCabe said. “This isn’t the first extreme weather event the state has seen, and we need to have ongoing discussions about how we will respond to those types of issues.”