Recently, we post several articles regarding the dangers of potholes and trying to safely make pothole repairs. Sadly, three pubic service employees have died in just the past three weeks, while making repairs. This article details an entirely different type of risk you personally face when it comes to potholes: crazy citizens. Here, we have a resident so upset that the city refuses to repair his road that he threatened to kill the services director.
A quick trip to jail calmed things down, but remember, risk comes at you from every direction.
DOUGLAS – Potholes may be the bane of any New Englander’s winter, but police said Paul T. Keddy, 57, of 224 Perry St., took his frustration too far when he allegedly threatened to kill the town administrator last week over the condition of his road.
Mr. Keddy was arraigned Wednesday in Uxbridge District Court on a charge of threatening to commit a crime, to wit, murder.
He was released on personal recognizance and ordered to stay away from the Douglas Municipal Center and the Highway Department. He is scheduled to return to court March 20 for a pretrial conference.
According to court documents, Mr. Keddy called Highway Superintendent John Furno on Feb. 13 to complain about road conditions near his home on Perry Street, which is a private, unpaved road.
Mr. Furno suggested to Mr. Keddy that he go to the Municipal Center to express his concerns to the town administrator, Matthew Wojcik.
Mr. Keddy then allegedly responded to Mr. Furno by saying, “If I go down there, I will kill him.”
Mr. Furno immediately called police, who drove to Mr. Keddy’s house to talk to him about his threat.
Mr. Keddy explained to police his frustration with the road conditions and the fact that the Highway Department has stopped maintaining the road because it is a private way.
“He stated that he had already, ‘lost two wives because of the potholes on this street,’ ” Patrolman Jacob J. Bloniasz wrote in the application for criminal complaint. “Keddy stated that he has left numerous voicemails for the town administrator and since he has not heard back from him, this has left him angry and frustrated.”
Mr. Keddy then told Officer Bloniasz he “wouldn’t hurt anybody,” although the officer noted that Mr. Keddy has an extensive criminal history of violent acts, with 79 entries on his adult probation record. Most of the charges consist of assault and battery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery on a police officer, threatening to commit a crime, disorderly conduct, and abuse prevention and property violations.
Police also received a copy of a voicemail message left for the town administrator that morning by Mr. Keddy. The expletive-filled message included the threat, “You’re going to get yours, you piece of (expletive).”
Interviewed as he was leaving court, Mr. Keddy described Perry Street as having a river running down it.
“I’ve got a four-wheel-drive pickup truck. I can barely get up and down my own road,” he said.
“How do you pay taxes, $1,300 every three months, and call it private?” Mr. Keddy asked.
He has lived on Perry Street for 17 years. According to the town assessor’s records, the roughly 3,000-square-foot Colonial-style house, built in 1999, which sits on 2.1 acres, is assessed with the land at $323,700.
“I didn’t realize it was private,” Mr. Keddy said about what he knew of the road when he bought the house. “I thought it was going to be paved. Somebody’s getting out of not paving. It’s been going on long, way too long.”
Mr. Wojcik said in an interview that although it may have been the practice in the past to mollify residents and provide upkeep to private roads from time to time, town bylaws prohibit maintenance beyond the bare minimum needed for emergency vehicles to get through.
“The reality is, we expose the town to risk when we do that,” Mr. Wojcik said town counsel advised him.
The town does plow snow on all roads in town, including private ones, since authorization to do so was voted on in the 1960s.
Mr. Wojcik explained there is a process by which residents of a private road could seek a road improvement. Affected residents would have to take a recorded vote, with a majority supporting the improvement. The petition would then have to be approved at town meeting. If approved, residents on the street would have a betterment added to their tax bill, pro rated by their amount of road frontage, to pay for the improvement.
Winning a street petition may not be simple, however. Mr. Wojcik said one large landowner controls 48 percent of the votes on Perry Street, based on the formula outlined in the bylaws. So all the other neighbors would have to vote for the improvement if a petition were to move forward.
Mr. Wojcik added that the improvement the town would be willing to work with Perry Street residents on, if it wins street and town meeting approval, would be to fix a culvert where the road crosses a seasonal stream, which is where a lot of flooding and deterioration occurs.
The culvert repair would total around $4,000, he said, which would come to a few hundred dollars per homeowner.
The cost to grade and pave Perry Street, which is more than three and a half miles long, would be prohibitive, based on the rule of thumb that it costs $1 million per mile.
“This time of year it’s always the same issue. Unimproved roads really take a beating from the plows,” Mr. Wojcik said. “As long as we’re making roads passable for emergency equipment,” the town is doing what it is required to do.
Mr. Wojcik said, “I’m sorry that he’s upset, but I think he’s taken it too far.”