AUGUSTA — City councilors unanimously approved a temporary agreement Thursday that allows a Boothby Street family to continue driving across a public works site to get to their home.

The Poulin family had been getting to and from their home by traveling across a public works site off North Street, and recently sued Augusta to keep that access open. The agreement will allow them limited access until the lawsuit is resolved.

An attorney for Monique and Robert Poulin, and Monique Poulin’s mother, Lorraine Piteau, said the temporary agreement, if the arrangement works out for both his clients and the city, could be the basis of a long-term solution. The lawsuit remains in place, however, and will move ahead unless a settlement is reached.

“If it does work, then we should be able to negotiate the terms of a final agreement along the same lines,” said Jed Davis, of Mitchell and Davis, who represented the family in what he described as extensive negotiations with Stephen Langsdorf, the city attorney. “My clients are hopeful that this temporary agreement will, after some months, lead to a final agreement.”

He said the situation involving the property comes with an unusual set of circumstances. Though the property has an official address on Boothby Street, it is accessible from that street only by a steep set of 100 wooden stairs that isn’t an option for two of the three people who live at the house because they have disabilities and mobility problems. They must come and go by using a driveway that crosses a portion of the city’s John Charest Public Works Facility.

Langsdorf and City Manager William Bridgeo concurred with Davis about the unusual nature of the Poulins’ situation.

City councilors voted 7-0 Thursday night to authorize Bridgeo to sign the agreement.

Davis said his clients planned to sign the agreement Friday afternoon.

The temporary agreement allows the Poulin family members to reach their home by crossing the public works property under certain conditions: only during the day, when the facility is open, and only if they let public works officials know they’re coming or going ahead of time, either by phone or in person.

The agreement was proposed after Superior Court Chief Justice Roland Cole held a judicial settlement conference last week. The Boothby Street residents say their family has safely driven across the city property to get to and from their home for 70 years, and they sued the city of Augusta to keep it from blocking off their access.

The suit alleges that if the city makes good on a warning that it would block access to their driveway, it will jeopardize their safety by cutting off the only access they have to their home other than the stairs.

The agreement stipulates that the city will not block or obstruct access to the Poulin property across the public works lot, but also will not perform any maintenance of the site to benefit the Poulins.

Langsdorf said the agreement is an attempt to balance the needs of the family with the need for safety and security at the public works site, where large dump trucks are filled with sand and salt, and other pieces of heavy equipment are regularly in motion. The route to the Poulin’s lot passes by a large sand shed, and areas where dirt, granite and other building materials are stored.

Langsdorf said providing advance notice when the Poulins plan to cross public works land will allow officials to notify any workers in the area of the driveway.

The agreement also includes a waiver of liability in which the Poulins agree they will not sue the city if something happens to them while crossing the property. Additionally, the agreement states that the city will have an engineer evaluate the condition of the Poulins’ stairs and help the family try to obtain grant funding to improve their access.

Langsdorf said no city money will be spent upgrading the privately owned stairs.

The home was built in 1948 by Robert Poulin’s father, and Robert Poulin has lived in the home all his life. Monique Poulin said it has been accessed all that time primarily by cutting across what was first the city dump and – since the 1970s – the public works headquarters, to the driveway that leads to the family’s home.

Earlier this year, Monique Poulin asked city officials for an access card that would have allowed the family to open a gate at the public works entrance when the site is closed, on nights and weekends. City councilors discussed the issue in September, and didn’t appear inclined to give family an access card to allow it to get through the gate at all times.

Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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