By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MOULTONBOROUGH — The problem of orphaned streets, those not documented as public highways yet plowed and maintained with public funds contrary to state law, is not confined to Laconia. Walter Johnson, the town administrator in Moultonborough, said Wednesday there are 200 miles of such roads in the town, which are plowed and sanded at public expense
Johnson described these roads as "private" meaning that while they are public thoroughfares they have not been formally accepted by the town as class 4 or 5 roads. State law (RSA 231:59) stipulates that municipal highway funds can only be spent to maintain Class 4 and 5 public highways that have been formally accepted as such by the municipality. Moreover, Primex, the general liability insurance carrier for many towns and cities, including Moultonborough, considers these roads private roads and that by plowing and maintaining them a municipality forfeits its sovereign immunity as well as its coverage for any personal injury or property damage arising from its presence on them.
In October, the selectmen addressed concerns about providing winter maintenance on these 200 miles of roads raised by the director of public works, Chris Theriault. Johnson said that the selectboard agreed to seek a legal opinion from town counsel as well as discuss the liability issues with Primex to determine the extent of any exposure to the town. Once the information is in hand the selectmen will decide "what is in the best best interest of the entire community." He said that In the meantime, he said winter maintenance would continue.
"There is no intention of turning off the faucet and saying you are on your own," he said.
Johnson said that many of the roads in question were built in the course of developing several large subdivisions, including Swissvale and Balmoral, in the 1970s and 1980s.
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