TREMONT — Is it possible to tell what town you are in during a snowstorm according to the road conditions?
Selectman Mike Mansolilli thinks it is and he recently suggested a possible solution to improving the winter road conditions in Tremont.
“You go to the Mount Desert town line and it’s bare,” he said during the Jan. 18 board of selectmen meeting. “You get into Southwest Harbor and it’s bare. You come to Tremont and it’s coated in ice. We’ve got to do something.”
Nearly two inches of snow had collected outside the town office during the meeting where Mansolilli explained why he thinks the town should have a resident advisor to the public works crew when they plow the roads.
“I just feel we should have somebody who lives right in town and has knowledge of road construction as well,” Mansolilli said to his fellow board members. “Our road commissioner currently lives in Bar Harbor and our interim public works foreman, Justin, lives in Trenton. When the road conditions could be bad here, they might not be as bad there.”
Harbormaster Justin Seavey has been heading up the town’s public works department, in addition to running the waterfront, while foreman Jimmy Schlaefer is out on leave. Schlaefer also is not a resident of Tremont. Town Manager Chris Saunders serves as the town’s road commissioner and lives in Bar Harbor.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a road commissioner who has lived in town,” said select board member McKenzie Jewett.
“Maybe that’s been the problem with the roads all this time,” Mansolilli responded. “I’ve had mornings where I’ve seen, 6:30 in the morning, they’re putting sand down and it’s just starting to cool off.
“If they’d been out three hours before and put that salt down when it was warm, it would have been able to penetrate and get the ice off the road,” he added. “(Then) we wouldn’t have to put the sand down.”
Southwest Harbor has a bit of an edge on Tremont as far as roads go with 4.5 miles of state highway compared to the latter’s .19 miles. This means the state’s department of transportation plows, salts and sands the neighboring town’s main roads. Much of Tremont’s main roads are classified as state-aid highway, which means the state maintains the roads in the summer while the town is on the hook for winter maintenance.
“I plowed for the town and I give it up because there is absolutely no guidance,” said resident Bobby Lee who offered feedback from the public.
“I’d go up through that road and I’d put on a hot load of salt because the sun was coming up. When I was coming back the next driver was plowing it off.
“There’s no point in spending all that money on salt and sand and then plowing it off,” he added.
Jewett asked if it would make sense to have the road commissioner meet with the public works crew to clear up some of the issues.
“It sounds to me like it’s a communication issue,” said Selectman Kevin Buck. “Before this happens, I’d like to see a job description. Having someone here would be beneficial. Conditions can be really different from here to Southwest [Harbor].”
As part of his suggestion, Mansolilli said the town could provide this person with a cell phone in order to be on call to advise crews at all hours. He also offered the person would be close to a volunteer, with a small stipend from the town.
“Who in their right mind is going to do that for a couple thousand dollars?” Jewett asked. “I don’t want my phone ringing at two in the morning.”
Saunders explained having too many people for the public works crew to answer to could be confusing. He and the board agreed if there is an advisor to the crew, communication would go through the foreman.
“You do need somebody in the wintertime,” Peter Gott said to selectmen at the meeting. “Somebody who does have some knowledge of the ins and outs of the plow.
“You’ve got guys that are doing a good job plowing the main drags,” he added. “Then you’ve got guys who are plowing sideroads that’s plowing their stuff out into the road after the big trucks go by. There needs to be more guidance.”
Members of the board voted unanimously to have Saunders write up a job description for the position before agreeing whether or not the town would seek someone to fill it.