Byline: J.P. Ellery
Debate can get emotional when the issue of private road maintenance responsibility raises its ugly head.
That was true Monday in Dudley.
It has been a hot topic in West Brookfield for years.
Dudley Town Administrator Peter M. Jankowski apparently shocked dozens of residents when he recently informed them by mail that past town expenditures to plow, sand and repair private roads were contrary to state law. It was illegal, he said.
There is a way to permit such maintenance, according to Mr. Jankowski, but it requires town meeting action and there is no indication that that was done in Dudley. He recommended discontinuing the maintenance next spring.
In recent years, West Brookfield brought the same issue to town counsel Kopelman & Paige for an opinion.
The law firm came up with a way to take care of private way, with restrictions. West Brookfield now has a "private road repairs account" and routinely appropriates about $30,000 annually to do upgrades to private ways.
"The town of West Brookfield may, subject to appropriation at the annual town meeting, make temporary repairs on private ways consisting of filling in potholes or depressions, resurfacing or any other actions reasonably necessary to provide for safe passage of town vehicles and the general public, but said repairs shall not include reconstruction or repairs of drainage facility," town counsel wrote. The opinion is based on an interpretation of a town bylaw.
The town amended that bylaw to allow for more extensive paving of private ways.
For many years, West Brookfield has plowed and sanded private...