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Public OK with multi-million dollar requests

April 07, 2010
SANBORNTON — Approximately 20 people came out for two public hearings in Sanbornton last Wednesday, and most spoke in favor of the bond proposals to construct a new highway garage and rebuild over six miles of Upper Bay and Bay Road.

The highway garage, deemed in poor condition by a recent engineering study, is in need of replacement, and selectmen feel now is the time to move forward with that project as bond rates are low and contractors are looking for work.

"This really is the time for us to build a new building if we can come up with the money," said Selectman Dave Nickerson.

Conneston Construction Inc., whose proposal for the garage was selected earlier by the board from two finalists, has come forward with a Guaranteed Maximum Price for the construction. Project Manager Bryant Lehr said that any costs below the company's proposal, based on what voters approve in May, will be deducted from the agreement.

Should the price go over their estimates, "We will eat it," said Lehr.

CCI has constructed similar buildings in Tilton and also in Lyme, which the board investigated and approved of.

"Our project though," said Chairman Andrew Livernois, "will include a cold storage building - a pole barn type of structure to hold equipment we can keep outdoors, like plows and sanders. Roughly calculated they are going to work to meet our numbers."

The building proposal by CCI is for a 102 x 82 square foot main structure. Selectmen noted that the building will be capable of sheltering the new equipment the town has purchased in recent years as well as giving better working conditions to town employees. Nickerson noted that the town has spent a lot of money on new highway equipment and said it is important to have proper storage for this investment along with giving the crew a "decent place to work."

"What they have now is too small. They can't even get the equipment inside. I invite people to come take a look at what's there," Nickerson said.

Residents attending the hearing were all in agreement that now is the time to act. The $1.1 million dollar construction fee will mean an additional 37 cents per thousand in taxes on a 10-year bond but will hopefully save a lot on maintenance and upkeep for town equipment, selectmen said.

A second hearing for improvements to Upper Bay Road was held immediately following the town garage hearing. The proposal is for $3 million to be spent to complete the "Y Project" in town, reconstructing Bay and Upper Bay Roads. Recent visits to the selectmen's meetings from Steele Hill Resort owner Bill Cutillo drew attention to the fact that the road was in complete disrepair, making a big impact on visitors to the town's largest taxpayer and employer.

"I'm not asking for a road paved in gold, but this has gone beyond the reality of what a road should be," Cutillo said.

He said he simply was asking the town for a drivable road surface for his employees and guests to travel. Many of the guests to the resort have said they would not be returning due to the poor road conditions, which take a toll on their vehicles and make an impact on the enjoyment of their stay.

Some residents were concerned that Lower Bay Road was being ignored in this reconstruction process, however.

"We want to finish the Y Project first and rebuild it (Upper Bay) as the primary corridor up there," said Livernois.

The selectmen agreed that Lower Bay Road would be in better shape once the heavier traffic no longer uses it as an alternative route to get to the resort and residences on Upper Bay and its connecting roadways.

Jeff Jenkins, a homeowner on Lower Bay, asked that his road not be "lost on the radar" in the process and selectmen assured him that would not be the case. Jim Bouchard, an engineer for the Y Project, said he was told by Jim Marshall from the Department of Transportation that the state, which owns the road, would be attempting to do something to ease woes on that thoroughfare.

"If they can put a skim coat on it to get through another two years, that would be great," Bouchard said.

The total cost for the project, yet to be put out to bid, would have a worse case scenario of being a $1 per thousand tax impact on the town. In keeping with their agreement for state-owned roads in a town, the state would repay two-thirds of the cost of the project to the town once it is complete and the town would retain ownership after the project is done.

"There's a window of opportunity out there to get this done, and we have to jump through it," Cutillo said.

Sanbornton residents will be faced with a ballot for each of these matters in May at the annual Town Meeting.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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