TUFTONBORO BOARD OF SELECTMEN, led by Chairman Lloyd Wood at far left, welcomed (l-r) Representatives Glenn Cordelli, Karel Crawford and Ted Wright to its April 7 meeting to discuss the condition of area roads. Interested members of the public filled the available seats along the wall. (Elissa Paquette photo) (click for larger version)
April 10, 2014TUFTONBORO — New Hampshire's roads and bridges are in rough shape, and those traveled by Tuftonboro residents are certainly no exception. With complaints from frost heave-weary residents escalating, the Tuftonboro Board of Selectmen invited its legislators to discuss the issue at its April 7 meeting.
Tuftonboro residents Glenn Cordelli and Ted Wright, of Districts 4 and 8 respectively, and Karel Crawford of Moultonborough, also representing District 4 and a member of the Transportation Committee, obliged.
Crawford said she recently had a similar request from Sandwich and had followed up with N.H. Dept. of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Chris Clement, who promised to drive up to Sandwich and travel the local byways.
The 4.2 cent per gallon increase in the gas tax passed by the Senate and heading next to the House is expected to first go mostly for expansion of I-93, but in 2015 and 2016, the town "might see something." Crawford said that Clements also indicated that he was open to cost sharing.
A driver education instructor, Crawford says she travels around 5,000 miles a month by car. In her opinion," We have to start somewhere…No one will be hurt by a 4.2 cent increase. It won't help up here right now, for the $38 million will go first to the southern part of the state, but I will vote for it."
She mentioned that highway grants are available in partnership with the state and encouraged the board to write a letter to the commissioner and send a copy to her, which she could refer to in a follow up phone call.
Wright commented that the Republicans had tried unsuccessfully to get 100 percent of the present gas tax to go for roads and bridges rather than diverting dollars to support the State Police and the DOT. As for the expansion on I-93, he said he saw "no reason to expand I-93 when people come up to bad roads."
Crawford commented that the state police patrol the highways and federal funding is attached to that.
Wright said has not closed his mind to voting for the increase, for the House hearings and debate have not yet begun, but he does not like to increase taxes. " A gas tax affects everyone across the board. I would rather refocus on what we're spending and put it on the roads."
"There's a 500 pound gorilla in the room. We need to look at other revenue sources. A casino is one. Of course that runs into moral issues," he added.
Cordelli said he and his fellow legislators would be considering two bills passed by the Senate, one is the 4.2-cent increase, the other would call to restrict the use and distribution of the current funds so that 73 percent of the road toll tax would go to the DOT. He sees that as an improvement. It's now at 68 percent. He does not intend to vote for the increase.
Selectman Dan Duffy shared a list of difficulties encountered by motorists driving along deteriorating roads including those pulling trailers who have trouble staying on the road, school buses and cyclists. "Ray Button was adamant" about bringing money up into the North Country, said Duffy. Selectman Carolyn Sundquist added that a car dealer told her that he was amazed at the number of car repairs this year. Wood told an anecdote about recently driving behind a woman, driving under the speed limit, who hit a frost heave and broke the struts on her new car, at a cost of around $650.
Resident Bill Marcussen pointed out two specific spots in town that are dangerous and need attention: Mirror Lake on the side of Route 109 opposite Winter Harbor has a persistent water issue that continually demands the town's attention, and the junction of Route 171 and Mountain Road has a soft shoulder. He noted that the state isn't fixing the problem. It has simply placed orange cones to warn motorists.
Duffy, following up on Crawford's suggestion of Coös, Grafton and Carroll counties collaborating on addressing the problem, said that he and Chairman Lloyd Wood had recently attended a meeting in Tilton to talk about coordinating efforts to put the pressure on.
Sundquist asked for information on the county budget, which has gone up 5 percent this year. Cordelli responded that spending goes up each year, and the surplus is used to cover the gap. "Eventually, it will catch up." He voted against the budget, for in his opinion, there is too great a difference between the budget and actual spending.
"Karel and I have beaten up the sheriff [on his budget] as much as we can," said Wright. "Insurance costs have gone up, so the only way to solve it is to reduce the number of people." There has been talk, said Cordelli, "to consider paying employees a stipend to not take insurance benefits."
Duffy commented that he heard about the idea of using a wing of the old nursing home for homeless veterans shelter. Wood said his constituents support using the facility for that purpose for there is food service and nurses next door at the Mountain View Community nursing home.
When asked for his opinion about the gas tax increase, Road Agent Jim Bean commented that he would like to see the roads cared for properly: "One million a year would make you feel like you were getting something."
Guy Pike thanked the representatives for their time but said he didn't feel much better about the road situation.