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Steele Hill says road to resort is damaging business

Portions of Upper Bay Road, like one shown here, are in such bad condition that Steele Hill Resort has customers who say they will not return. Owner Bill Cutillo said the road is affecting residents, real estate sales and town vehicles as well. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
February 24, 2010
SANBORNTON — Bill Cutillo, owner of Steele Hill Resort, made an impassioned plea to Sanbornton selectmen last Wednesday evening, asking tham to help save his business by fixing a portion of Upper Bay Road that is so tough to navigate this time of year, resort guests are threatening not to return.

"We've been taking care of the resort and trying to stay competitive as possible, but the bottom line is you can't get there," Cutillo said.

The worst portion of the road, and the one Cutillo wants to see fixed, runs from Collison Road to the Second Baptist Church on the corner of Steele Hill Road.

The rutted conditions on the road not only affect his guests, Cutillo said, but residents, school buses and town vehicles are also at risk. The frost heaves and potholes also hurt real estate sales in that portion of the town. After driving that road, he said, no one is going to spend $300,000 for a home in that neighborhood.

Cutillo pointed out that he has done his part with the Steele Hill project over the past 15 years and even contributed one-third of the town's cost for roadwork done on Steele Hill Road. In return he had asked that the remaining distance to Route 3 be taken care of as soon as possible. All he has heard since that time are empty promises, he said.

As the town's largest taxpayer, paying over $200,000 each year to Sanbornton, he asked the town to take action in improving the well-traveled route. He himself has tried talking with the state about repairs to no avail, which is what brought him before the board once more.

"They (the state) said they are going to take care of the numbered roads first. We've got to take charge of this situation. It's not (interstate) 93 or 89. They aren't going to do it," he said.

In another state, he continued, this would be a town road and should be maintained to benefit the residents and taxpayers of the town.

Town Administrator Bob Veloski said he has been told the state would reimburse the town should they chose to do any repairs themselves to state roads in Sanbornton. An agreement with the Department of Transportation says the state will pay for two-thirds of the cost for any improvements to state-owned roads with the town then taking over ownership of the road. At this time, however, state funds for these reimbursements are low, and Veloski said he has been fighting to get money back on the Hunkins Pond project, as promised by DOT. He could not guarantee how soon any reimbursements on other road projects might come through.

Selectmen said they fully understood Cutillo's plight. Chairman Andrew Livernois noted that bond rates right now are "terrific" and construction costs are also low, given the economy and perhaps it was time to bring the matter to voters. The town could then seek reimbursement for two-thirds of the construction costs from DOT once the project was complete.

David Nickerson made a motion to write a warrant article for an estimated $3 million bond for engineering and reconstruction costs to Upper Bay Road, which was followed by an unanimous vote of the board. Residents will have an opportunity to discuss the issue and cast their votes at the town meeting in May.

Martin Lord & Osman
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