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Town Council Candidate Portrays Fort Fairfield Inhabitants as a Bunch of Pot-Smoking Rednecks


By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, September 26, 2018


   Fort Fairfield Town council candidate, Ken Stratton continues to tirelessly lobby the Fort Fairfield town council for ATV open access on in-town side streets.  During the public comment period at their September 19 meeting, Stratton described some changes to unrelated laws in an effort to prop up his failing argument.  “A lot has happened in Maine in the last few years,” Stratton told the town council.  “Folks can now legally posses two and a half ounces of marijuana, you can legally carry a concealed firearm without a permit and background check that goes with that, you can legally carry explosives - fireworks.”

   Stratton then went on to insinuate Fort Fairfield’s inhabitants are essentially a bunch of pot-smoking rednecks.  “Here we have folks here in town smoking weed, packing heat and shooting off fireworks.  I think Fort Fairfield has a lot more to worry about than the locals trying to use the trails,” Stratton told the town council.

   However, the issue here isn't whether or not people in Fort Fairfield can use the ATV trails - they can.  The issue is, for Stratton, gaining access to those trails by allowing ATV operators to drive on the side streets from anywhere in mid-town without trailering their gear.

  At best, Mr. Stratton's most recent argument to the town council is superfluous and at worst it is moot since none of the changes to laws he mentioned have anything to do with vehicle or pedestrian safety with respect to ATV use on a street.  Furthermore, his statement that a person can “pack heat” without a background check is incorrect.  Anyone who purchases a firearm from a licensed dealer must first undergo, and successfully pass, a background check at the time of every sale.  People in Maine have always enjoyed the right to “pack heat,” the only change the Maine legislature made was to allow them to conceal their firearms without a permit.  Most gun owners in Fort Fairfield do, however, continue to maintain their concealed carry permit with the police chief in case a leftist legislature and governor regain control in Maine and bring the permit requirement back. 

As for fireworks, the town council attempted to regulate the use of those items in order to reduce noise and disruption to the town's peace during all odd hours of the night.  That Mr. Stratton chose to use these three examples, totally unrelated to ATV safety on town back streets, illustrates how desperate he seems to be in gaining that access for local ATV owners. 

   Mr. Stratton has been lobbying the town council for nearly a year to open Fort Fairfield's back streets to ATV use.  His original argument was that since the back streets in Fort Fairfield are already shared by pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders, yard tractors, horse buggies and construction equipment, that ATVs should be allowed the same unfettered access to use those same roads.  His original plan was to open up all of Columbia Avenue, Fisher Street and Roosevelt Avenue to create an access way from Presque Isle Street to Forest Avenue - cutting a paved ATV trail right through the middle of Fort Fairfield's in town residential streets.  He also advocated for open ATV access for all side streets that connect with that main hub in order to allow ATV operators that live on those streets the ability to drive to the trail head from their house without having to go through the trouble of placing their ATV on a trailer and towing it to the trailhead.

   While he suggested the access would be for local owners only, there would be virtually no way to regulate that use with the current staff level at Fort Fairfield Police Department and the routes would likely soon morph into a de facto paved ATV trail for everyone.  Furthermore, if the town council had accepted those arguments and allowed access on those designated streets, then ATV owners on other streets would surely have relied on that precedent to request the same privileges on their streets.  Soon, the entire town could end up with ATV open access on all town streets.

   This past Spring, the town council considered his request and deferred to the advice of their Public Safety Officer, Fort Fairfield Police Chief Shawn Newell, who advised them the narrowness of those streets and the “S” curve on Fisher to Columbia created a safety issue when mixing ATVs and motor vehicles in those areas.

   Fort Fairfield currently follows the State model by allowing ATVs to use the sides of roads to gain access within a maximum distance of 1,500 feet from the trail head.  Stratton says that isn't enough. With the general mood of the town council such that a vote to approve access would likely fail by a 3-2 margin, Stratton has taken the steps to get his name placed on the ballot in an effort to unseat one of those opposing votes and tip the balance in favor of ATV open access in Fort Fairfield.