John Bonnington was the man who convinced the Select Board that Dalton needed a traffic commission.
He served as chairman of that commission for many years. In the spare hours of his retirement, John spent a lot of time in the Berkshire County Registry of Deeds trying to determine which streets in Dalton were accepted town streets and which were not. John discovered an unsettling fact: with rare exceptions such as the state highways and some of the major secondary roads, the only streets that had been accepted by the town were those that had been constructed after the enactment of the town zoning bylaws.
Worse yet, there are more than a few streets in Dalton that, while they have physical existence, have no legal existence. There are no deeded rights of way for these streets; they run across the land of abutting property owners.
Recently, the Dalton Select Board announced that the town would no longer maintain River Street, as it is a private road that has never been accepted by the town. ("These Dalton neighbors were told the snowplows wouldn’t come this year. Their reprieve will be short-lived," Eagle, Nov. 25.) This caused great consternation for the people who own houses on the street, as the cost of maintaining the road themselves is beyond what most people can afford.
I would caution the Select Board to reconsider their decision. Taxpayers have an understandable belief that the town owes them certain services in return for their tax payments: water, sewer, fire and ambulance service; education for their children; and that the roads they travel on be maintained to the highest possible standard. When a municipality reneges on this implicit contract, it is likely to result in a bitter civil rights case.
Do you remember the Battle of Taunton Terrace? For those who don't remember, Taunton Terrace is another street that has physical existence but legally is a common driveway serving five houses. When the town decided to stop servicing their street, the citizens fought a decade-long war with the town — and won.
So, Select Board members, give it a thought: If the taxpayers that you have just denied discover that the town is still maintaining other physically existence but legally nonexistent roads, what do you think will happen? Quiet resignation, or an angry mob attending every board meeting from now until you surrender?
Thomas King, Dalton