Freeport lawsuit claims town failed to provide information about road project

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FREEPORT — Resident Martina M. Sullivan’s lawsuit against the town to stop South Freeport Road work is as much about damage to trees on her property as it is about how she believes she was treated at a March 29 meeting about the project.

The town has 20 days from the lawsuit service on March 31 to respond, according to the Cumberland County Superior Court document.

Town Manager Peter Joseph, who announced the lawsuit April 5 after a Town Council meeting, said the town will respond through the courts.

Sullivan is seeking a preliminary injunction, and makes her case in a five-page petition. She wants information, not money, about the road work and how it may affect South Freeport Road residents.

The petition references the March 29 meeting, and adds older information on South Freeport Road repair plans dating back to 2014. It describes the earlier planned road work and trees cut back on Sullivan’s property.

The town approved the project in 2014. In December 2016, “South Freeport Road residents received formal Notice letters from the Town about the (upcoming) roadwork without any specifics,” the complaint states.

About 10 people attended the March 29 meeting. Sullivan arrived after the meeting started in the late afternoon. The meeting was posted online in the town’s calendar section.

Freeport Public Works Superintendent Earl Gibson and Town Engineer Adam Bliss sat at a table on the floor, Gibson to Bliss’s right. Bliss  said it was Gibson’s idea to hold the neighborhood meeting. They wanted to give audience members a scope of the project and a schedule.

The project would take about a year and a half to complete. Before the lawsuit’s notice, the work was to have begun this summer, and lay over the winter so Gibson and Bliss could see how the cold weather affected the work. Work would resume in 2018, wrapping up that summer. The elevation of the road would not be changed.

Bids have not been requested yet, Joseph said after the meeting, so the town does not have additional specifics on the project’s cost.

Bliss said work involves an overlay of new pavement to the existing pavement. Within the right of way and within existing rights of way, pavement would be ground. A 6-to-9-inch layer of sub-base would give extra support and lengthen the life of the road.

“There’s a better use of our money over the long term – 20 years (of life) rather than five years,” he said.

Bliss and Gibson spoke about culvert repair, widening the road’s shoulders, drainage work and re-striping. Citizens at the meeting asked questions about their particular properties. Gibson knew the houses and their locations along the road like the back of his hand, and proposed a solution to one man’s question about his home and land. Another South Freeport Road resident asked if he could tie his home into the town sewer system if the road is ripped up.

Sullivan asked questions in quick succession at the March 29 meeting, saying aloud that she arrived late. Bliss answered her questions.

Sullivan in her complaint said “Mr. Bliss became agitated and unreasonably irritated when asked about the town’s right of way width.” In her complaint, she said the meeting did not give enough notice after a March 15 cancellation due to a snow storm.

Discussion also included tree trimming.

“You’ll probably see my crews start to do some light tree trimming – a tree here or there,” Bliss said. “We’re not going to do a lot of trimming.”

That’s a point Sullivan listed in her court complaint, about trees on her property already having been trimmed or damaged.

Sullivan, according to the complaint, said town public works crews arrived at her home around 7 a.m. on July 26, 2016.

Workers “… started cutting limbs off her arborvitae trees without first surveying South Freeport Road as the town officials had agreed to do in order to determine the town’s right of way width, resulting in damage to the property. In addition to the damage to the arborvitae trees, the actions of the Town have resulted in an increase in noise from the road and a decrease in privacy resulting from the removal of a significant portion of the screening that had been in place for more than 30 years.”

Earlier this year, on Jan. 19, Sullivan filed a formal written notice to the town because she said the town was unable to provide her with deed information or any road survey notes that the town has ownership in South Freeport Road.

On the complaint, Sullivan does not list a street address in Freeport. A post office box is listed for mail, and two calls to her home were not returned.

The town’s attorney, Bernstein Shur attorney Philip Saucier, could not be reached for comment.

Lisa D. Connell can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or lconnell@theforecaster.net. Follow Lisa on Twitter: @connell_ld.

South Freeport Road work may be on hold pending a resident’s lawsuit against the town of Freeport.

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