Groton town, city at odds over road upkeep

Groton - The Groton city mayor, Groton town mayor and lawyers for both municipalities will meet Tuesday to begin trying to resolve a dispute over who should pay for city roads.

The meeting, which will also include Town Manager Mark Oefinger, will deal mostly with the process to be followed, Town Mayor Heather Bond Somers said.

The city and town are gridlocked because they disagree about what "building and maintenance of roads" means and who is responsible for it.

"There is no clear defining description of what the town is responsible for and the city as far as the maintenance and repair of roads," Somers said. "For example, does that include a sidewalk? The town may believe that sidewalks are not part of the road. The city may believe the sidewalks are part of the road."

Earlier this year, town councilors cut $476,549 from the city's $4.5 million request for police and highways. The Representative Town Meeting restored the police money but does not handle the road issue.

City Mayor Marian Galbraith said she would take the issue to mediation, and the City Council then approved the full amount as if the town funds were forthcoming.

Town councilor James Streeter, who ran unsuccessfully for city mayor in May, voted against the majority of his colleagues on cutting the city highway budget. He said he did not believe the cuts were justified.

Streeter said he also encouraged the city to seek a "legal remedy" and believes if the city doesn't get an answer, it should take the town to court and let the court settle it.

He said over the years, "We've had numerous correspondence from lawyers from the city and the town on this matter."

Galbraith said the city is following the process its charter allows.

The city charter reads that if there's a dispute between the town and city over road money, a committee of three city councilors are appointed to meet with the Town Council to discuss it. If the disagreement persists, a committee of three makes the decision. The committee includes one person appointed by the Groton Town Council, one appointed by the Groton City Council and one appointed by the state transportation commissioner or deputy.

Somers said she hopes to end up with a clear understanding between city and town "so we don't have to have this conversation every year."

"I think it's something we absolutely have to work out, and it's unfortunate that it had to go to mediation, but it's a good way to try to resolve an issue," she said.

She added that part of the problem is charters must reflect current times.

"When all these charters were written, everything was a lot different back then," Somers said. "For example, what about snow plowing? They didn't snow plow back then."

d.straszheim@theday.com

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