Blue Jay Way could be getting some much-needed repairs – and new ownership – after a joint committee of representatives from the town of Oakland and the village of Cambridge agreed to split the cost of fixing the road.
The Blue Jay Way Subcommittee, composed of members from both Cambridge and Oakland, agreed to split evenly the cost of fixes when it met May 26 to discuss short and long term solutions to the deteriorating road in front of Cambridge High School.
Both the village and the town boards were considering the proposal for approval this month.
The subcommittee agreed Oakland and Cambridge should for now both fund a mill and overlay – a paving process where a layer of the old asphalt will be removed and a new asphalt will be added on top – from Simonson Street to Potters Road.
“That road is rough... It needs help,” Cambridge Village President Mark McNally told the Cambridge News and Deerfield Independent. “I am excited that we do have something from the town of Oakland that says, ‘OK, we’ll meet you halfway.’”
The Cambridge Village Board discussed the repairs and annexation of the road as two separate agenda items at its July 12 meeting. The village approved the proposal to split the repair costs, but took no action on the matter of annexation.
"That's a future discussion," Village Trustee Kris Breunig said at the meeting.
The Oakland town board will review the proposal at its July 21 meeting.
“I’m hopeful that everyone will agree to it,” Oakland town supervisor and joint subcommittee member Ted Vranty told the Cambridge News and Deerfield Independent. “The road certainly does need some work.”
An intergovernmental agreement between Oakland and Cambridge struck in 2006 left Blue Jay Way, as well as Potter’s Road and North Street, in the town but put responsibility for maintenance on the village. The town each year passes on to the village $1,800 in aid money for the roads that it receives from the state.
In recent years, Blue Jay Way has fallen into increasing disrepair while the town and village have continued to disagree about whose responsibility it is to cover the cost of upgrading it.
The debates have largely centered around who owns the roads and the definition of “maintenance” in the intergovernmental agreement, with Cambridge arguing that the agreement limits the village’s responsibility to routine maintenance like plowing. Large reconstructions and upgrades, the village argues, is the Oakland’s responsibility to plan and fund.
Cost estimates for repairing the road have ranged from $60,000 for a short-term overlay similar to the one agreed upon in the May 26 meeting, to more than $800,000 for a full reconstruction, which would include curb and gutter, sidewalk and under-street utility work.
The $1,800 in state aid that the town passes on to two the village won’t cover much of the road repair, McNally said.
“I don’t think that original plan ever planned for road replacement,” McNally said.
Oakland has argued that reconstructing the road was solely the village’s responsibility. The town has maintained that as part of the agreement, the town completely turned Blue Jay Way and several streets adjacent to it over to the village, leaving Cambridge responsible for all future short and long-term fixes. The agreement was renewed in 2016 for another 10 years, until 2026.
Another complication: If Cambridge annexes Blue Jay Way, it will create islands out of the two homes on Blue Jay Way that remain in the town.
The Oakland Town Board in a June 7 special meeting agreed to put out bids. The town secured three bids on the project, which went to the lowest bidder. That was Payne and Dolan with a bid around $74,000, according to an email sent from Vratny to Cambridge Village Administrator Lisa Moen.
In his email to Moen, Vranty asked the village to pass an ordinance annexing Blue Jay Way from the town into the village before repairs begin.
According to the meeting minutes, the town collects $792 in property taxes for homes on Blue Jay Way while Cambridge collects $13,774.
“We would like the village very much to take it,” Vranty said, adding that all but two of the homes on Blue Jay Way were in the village. “It doesn’t make sense for us to say it’s still a town road.”