Deerfield Select Board fields concerns from Steam Mill Road residents

  • The beginning of Steam Mill Road in Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/12/2021 9:23:58 AM

DEERFIELD — Select Board members worked Wednesday to reassure Steam Mill Road residents that their concerns are being heard in regards to the Sept. 22 vote to discontinue public maintenance of a portion of the road.

The town had been maintaining the road up to 60 Steam Mill Road prior to the board’s vote, but now the town will maintain up to 41 Steam Mill Road only. This will affect the residents of six houses. Town Counsel Lisa Mead, of Mead, Talerman & Costa LLC, penned an opinion that the town is not required to maintain the road beyond the public layout accepted in 1952.

“Notwithstanding the fact that the town undertook certain incidental maintenance of the accepted portion of the roadway,” Mead wrote, “the town has no obligation to undertake any further maintenance or work or even plowing of the unaccepted portion of Steam Mill Road.”

According to Mead, only part of Steam Mill Road is a public way.

Select Board member Carolyn Shores Ness said the board feels an obligation to the residents of those six houses and “we just have to figure out a way to resolve this ... that will stand up in land court.”

“It’s going to take a while,” she added.

Voters at the 1952 Town Meeting accepted the road’s public layout. It is unknown who owns much of Steam Mill Road and the town had for years provided plowing and minor maintenance, but Select Board members say they cannot use public funds to maintain a private way. Mead noted the town is obligated to maintain the public portion, paved or unpaved, for the safety and convenience of travelers.

Select Board member Trevor McDaniel referred to the area as “a gorgeous spot,” but said the gully needs some improvement.

Highway Superintendent Kevin Scarborough said his crew had always worked with the mindset that 60 Steam Mill Road was the end of the public way “because that’s what we had always been told.” He wanted to know what work was legal for his department and contractors to conduct, and where liability would fall. Mead said she would review bylaws to find the answer.

Shores Ness told residents not to worry about emergency vehicles failing to make it up the road.

“It’s not going to happen,” she said. “Please don’t be stressed about that sort of thing.”

Assistant Town Administrator Jennifer Gannett asked what would happen if it snows before the final meeting on this matter, and Mead assured her she will find answers promptly.

Shores Ness promised the Select Board will not “leave people hanging.” Chair David Wolfram said board members feel badly about the situation, but their hands are tied in relation to how to deal with the issue legally.

Mead’s opinion can be viewed on the 20th page of the Oct. 6 meeting’s packet at bit.ly/3mOUDUH.




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