THIS BRIDGE LOCATED in Woolwich crosses the Nequasset Stream, allowing access to a home at 207 George Wright Road. The structure is expected to undergo a state inspection this spring.

THIS BRIDGE LOCATED in Woolwich crosses the Nequasset Stream, allowing access to a home at 207 George Wright Road. The structure is expected to undergo a state inspection this spring.

WOOLWICH

Woolwich selectmen are weighing several options as they consider the future of a local bridge, located just down the road from the town office.

The bridge currently crosses the Nequasset Stream, allowing access to a home at 207 George Wright Road.

The property is owned by Matt Richard and his wife, Amy, who rent out the home to other residents. The couple also own a home on Barley Neck Road, which abuts the property.

The town-owned bridge was built in 1964 after an existing bridge had collapsed. It was limited to a carrying capacity of 12 tons when the Maine Department of Transportation reviewed the structure in the late 1980s, according to Selectman Jason Shaw.

While bridge conditions have not changed, Chairman David King said it may undergo another assessment in the spring. He expected the bridge to pass inspection, though he said the established tonnage could potentially decrease.

“We have no reason to believe differently,” King said on Tuesday night at a selectboard meeting. “We’re trying to be a little proactive and trying to find a win-win solution that works for everyone involved.”

Since the state will not fund repairs to the bridge, King said Woolwich residents could potentially vote to appropriate funds for bridge repairs at Town Meeting — or not.

“We would have to prepare a warrant article, and we’d have to ask for whatever number it was going to cost to fix that bridge … and it would be a real tough sell if it served one home,” he said.

“We may just find a way to keep patching it and keep it at 12 tons forever,” King added. “At some point it’s going to need some major repairs, and if the town doesn’t give us the funding … we’re at the end of the road.”

Conversation on Tuesday night also broached the possibility of making the bridge private or creating a separate access road that avoids the bridge.

“If the town of Woolwich has anything to do with the bridge, it has to do it through public safety or DOT standards if you will … if it’s a private bridge, you can do whatever you want with it,” Shaw said.

An additional road could potentially affect neighbors like Russell Pierson, who owns property behind the Richards’ Barley Neck Road home.

A site walk near Pierson’s property took place on Wednesday afternoon, as Richard shared his thoughts with community members and selectmen on where a potential road could be drawn.

Richard said he had been unaware of the condition of the bridge when he bought the property, though he had visited the town office numerous times to research the specifics of the lot.

“It was never brought up to me that this bridge was in any kind of jeopardy,” Richard said. “I never would have bought that house knowing what I know now.”

Curt Fish, a broker at Sharon Drake Real Estate who had helped the couple purchase the property, was also displeased by the oversight.

“It’s not the end of the road not by any stretch,” he said. “The town has responsibilities to maintain that road and pay the damages for anything of that change … the town doesn’t have an easy way out here. The easy way out was a couple months ago when they could have bought the property.”

While Shaw said purchasing the property as a town would not have been possible due to cost, Fish noted that making the bridge’s history clear to the broker and seller “would have been a very heads up thing to do.”

“I know there’s a win-win out there, I believe very strongly in that, but I also believe very strongly in correcting a misdeed,” Fish added.

King said another possibility would be discontinuing the bridge and paying Richard for the damages, which could be used to build another bridge or a private road.

“The bridge isn’t falling in tomorrow, it isn’t falling in next week or next year,” Shaw said. “It’s just that we’re faced with this dilemma that in five years, 10 years … this is going to come up.

“This is good, this is healthy,” he added, regarding the discussions and site walk that took place on Wednesday.

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• THE TOWN-OWNED BRIDGE was built in 1964 after an existing bridge had collapsed. It was limited to a carrying capacity of 12 tons when the Maine Department of Transportation reviewed the structure in the late 1980s.


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