CUMBERLAND — The Town Council Monday scheduled public hearings for later this month on demolishing an abandoned Valley Road home and restoring lower speed limits on Bruce Hill, Orchard and Whitney roads.
Both hearings were set for Aug. 24, at the regular meeting to be held at Town Hall at 7 p.m.
The home at 74 Valley Road was destroyed by a fire in February, and has been deemed dangerous by town officials. The home belongs to Rhonda Coppersmith, who is currently jailed for embezzling from Vessel Services in Portland. Coppersmith pleaded guilty in June to stealing more than $400,000 from her former employer, and was later sentenced to 27 months in prison.
The town has a lien on the property for non-payment of taxes and is just over $4,000.
At the time of the fire, the Fire Department said nothing was suspicious about the blaze, which started in the garage. The home was insured, but town officials said the money was used to pay down the mortgage rather than fix the damage and that the company holding the mortgage does not plan on paying the unpaid property tax.
Vessel Services was granted a title to the property, but town officials say the company does not intend to take ownership. Coppersmith, Vessel Services and the mortgage holder have been notified of the Aug. 24 public hearing, where it will be decided if the structure should be demolished.
Town Manager Bill Shane said that without notice or petition last week, the Maine Department of Transportation last week posted speed limits of 40 and 45 miles per hour on Bruce Hill, Orchard and Whitney roads, which have traditionally been posted at 30 and 35.
“I can’t even describe how speechless I was when I saw the signs,” Shane said, describing how he ‘tested’ the roads at the higher speeds this week.
“Forty-five makes absolutely no sense, I don’t know how they came up with that,” he said. “The curves do not support stopping distances at that level of speed; there’s no way you can feel safe.”
If OK’d by the public hearing later this month, the town will petition MDOT to lower the speed limit to no more than 35 mph on all three roads. In the meantime, advisory speed limit signs will be posted. Though police enforcement of advisory limits could be sticky, Shane said police can issue tickets for “imprudent speed,” even if a driver is abiding by the higher MDOT-posted limits.
Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.