LACONIA — The City Council on Monday night assured residents living on so-called "problematic" streets that it will do all it can, including seeking a legislative remedy, to resolve the issues surrounding them without adversely affecting the interests of property owners.
"We are going to make every effort to rectify this situation in the next two years," declared Mayor Ed Engler. At the same time, City Manager Scott Myers explained that the discussions are underway with the city attorney as well as public officials and legal counsels from other municipalities that find themselves in similar straits with an eye to drafting legislation what would be introduced in 2018. In the meantime, he said that the city would continue to provide the same level of maintenance and services to the streets in questions as it has in the past.
The "problematic" streets, some 40 of them representing seven miles of roadway, are those that cannot be documented as having ever been formally accepted as class 4 and 5 public highways. State law stipulates that only class 4 and 5 public highways — and not private roads — can be maintained and improved at public expense. Moreover, Primex, the city's insurance carrier, has advised city officials that it considers these streets private roads. By plowing and maintain these streets in violation of state law, Primex claims that the city has forfeited its sovereign immunity as well as its coverage for any personal injury or property damage arising from its presence on them.
The council, on Monday, formally designated six streets as "emergency lanes," which state law entitles the city to maintain, not for the sole benefit of the abutters, but to serve a public purpose by providing timely access to other city streets or facilities. As "emergency lanes," Bell Street Extension between Franklin Terrace and Franklin Street and Crossover Street between Durkee Street and Addison Street will enable plow trucks to travel continuous, uninterrupted routes. Likewise, Lane Road and Pickerel Pond Road from Meredith Center Road and Parade Road represent efficient plow routes that reduce reducing the time and cost of snow removal. Channel Lane and Hillcrest Drive both provide access to city sewer pump stations.
A number of residents of Hillcrest Drive attended the meeting, several of whom expressed concern that designation as an "emergency lane" rather than a public highway could impair the value of their properties. Hillcrest Drive was built in three phases, but only the first section was apparently ever accepted as a city street. Those who purchased homes in the second and third phase of the subdivision, located off White Oaks road, said that they were not informed of the status of the roadway and assumed that their properties were on a city street. Two said that had they known they would not have bought property on Hillcrest Drive.
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