WALDO — Depending on who you talk to, the community meeting Tuesday, April 12, to talk about the condition of the town’s dirt roads was anywhere from “great” to “a nightmare.” Select Board members had scheduled the meeting in response to requests from residents at the town meeting in March.

The Select Board members we spoke to had a generally positive view of the gathering, with First Selectman Kathy Littlefield saying turnout was “fantastic” and the meeting itself was “great.”

Third Selectman Shirley Caler said she thought townspeople appreciated the opportunity to be heard. She said the board had explained to those present that the town needs to create a plan for the roads in order to be able to apply for government funding.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, resident Peter Velanzon called the meeting “a nightmare,” saying no commitment to do anything about the roads had emerged from the meeting. He added that he had bought a wearable video camera to record future meetings in an effort to hold town officials accountable.

Resident Herb Harnden said nearly as many people attended as were at the town meeting. He recalled board members saying at town meeting that federal money would be available for road work in the town, but at the April 12 meeting they said the office of Democratic 2nd District Congressman Jared Golden had told them no money would be available for small towns like Waldo, that the money would go to larger municipalities where there were more people and the funds would garner more publicity.

Golden spokesman Nick Zeller told The Republican Journal April 18  that the congressman’s office had spoken with town officials about funding for road repairs and staff had explained that there were two possible routes for the town to apply for federal money. One, community project funding, would  involve a direct application to the government, but because the process for allocating community project grants defers to state priorities, it would be unlikely that a small town would get funds that way, Zeller said.

The second route would be to seek funds from the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which would mean applying for a grant from Maine Department of Transportation. That was the way he thought was more likely for a town like Waldo to get support for local road improvement.

Caler told The Journal April 13 that the town’s dirt roads would be graded and crowned, ditching would be done and they would get the culverts working properly to drain water off the roads. She added that the roads needed to be dug up and have a new base put under them, but that would have to wait for funding.

She said the board must decide whether to pay to have a private engineer look at the roads and advise them and Road Commissioner Alvin Winslow what to do or to request the Department of Transportation to send someone to help with a work plan. Another possibility, she said, is to ask F.C. Work & Sons, the town’s paving contractor, for an assessment of the work needed.

The town did not get the grading it had hoped to accomplish done last fall, Caler said, because there was so much rain, followed by freezing weather that made it impossible.

She said if residents want to know when the roads will be discussed at future Select Board meetings, they should check the town website, where agendas will be posted.

Caler also said board members had talked to Knox First Selectman Galen Larrabee about the road bond that the town took out last year. They are considering taking out a bond to fix Waldo’s roads this fall.

Harnden said he was frustrated that the Select Board presented no plan for the roads to residents April 12, and that Winslow was not present for the first half of the meeting.

When residents asked if an engineer would be brought in, Harnden said, Littlefield replied that the board would vote on it at an unspecified future meeting.

“I just don’t think we’re getting honest answers. It’s the same old, same old,” he said.

He said residents had gone to some lengths to show board members their concern about the roads. One woman brought in her damaged wheel rims to show, and another had gotten instructions from University of Maine on how to test the soil from East Waldo Road in front of her house. She brought in a sample that was mostly sand and silt, although it should have contained a much high proportion of stone, he said. The woman said she had spoken with DOT and been told that a gravel road should have  3% to 7% silt, but her sample was 35% silt.

Harden said as recently as three years ago, a DOT engineer had come to the town and assessed a section of East Waldo Road, the town followed his recommendations to repair it, and that part of the road is now in better shape. Why not take other sections of road and do the same thing, he asked.

One problem, he said, is that while the board controls the purse strings, the road commissioner is in charge of the work to be done. He could not recall that Winslow had ever been challenged in an election.

Revenue is also a problem, said Harnden, who previously served 10 years on the Select Board. “As a town we’re not bringing in enough money to meet the standards of today. Our town is in for a real shock real soon,” as repairs kicked down the road for years pile up and eventually must be faced.

Finally, there is the issue of residents’ well-being. What if someone dies because an ambulance or a firetruck could not get down their road, Harden asked. He said he knows of people who receive prescriptions by mail and are unable to get to the post office if their medicine is not delivered.

The board’s next meeting is at 5 p.m. Monday, April 18, at the Town Office, with a special town meeting on a Fire Department cost recovery ordinance and a commercial solar installation moratorium to follow at 6 p.m.