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Selectmen focus on Alton's roads

ALTON RESIDENT RICHARD JONES was honored by the board of selectmen during their meeting Monday night for his years of service to the community as a member of Levey Park’s Board of Trustees. Brendan Berube. (click for larger version)
June 22, 2010
ALTON — The focus was on roads during Monday night's meeting of the Alton Board of Selectmen, as Highway Agent Ken Roberts unveiled plans for the re-construction of Coffin Brook Road and provided updates on several other ongoing projects.

Providing an overview of the Coffin Brook Road project during a public hearing that opened Monday's meeting, Roberts explained that it was the "No. 3 project" on the Highway Department's docket this year, following improvements to Muchado Hill Road and Stockbridge Corner Road.

Advising residents of Coffin Brook Road that there is no guarantee his department will be able to complete the project this year, Roberts said the timetable will depend on whether or not the town receives a hazard mitigation grant from the state Department of Environmental Services (DES) to cover the cost of the project's most expensive phase — the reconstruction of the bridge leading to Route 140, which carries an estimated price tag of $141,000.

That aspect of the project, he explained, will entail elevating the 350-foot-long stretch of road on and around the bridge, installing new elliptical culverts underneath the road, and reconstructing the sides of the bridge with crushed gravel and stone in order to prevent storm water runoff from continuing to wash over that section of the road.

The remaining 2.17 miles of Coffin Brook Road, Roberts said, will be ground down, elevated slightly, and re-paved with an eye toward preventing the washouts that have left it in deplorable condition over the years.

Very little has been done to address the problem areas along Coffin Brook since they were paved over in the mid-1990s with cold patch that has since dried up and begun to crumble away, he said, adding that "it's time to patch it up."

The highway department, he said, has already marked a number of "key trees" that are set to be removed during the project in order to improve sight lines or because their root structures will interfere with the process of grinding down the road.

Any residents along Coffin Brook who would like to have the wood from trees taken down in front of their homes dropped somewhere on their property, he said, are welcome to contact him so that the cost of delivering the wood can be rolled into the bid package.

Tree removal proved to be a recurring concern among the residents who attended Monday's hearing.

Voicing his concerns about the fate of a tree near his mailbox, William Tothill asked Roberts to what degree the trees along Coffin Brook Road will be cut.

Explaining that every tree set to come out has been marked with an orange dot, Roberts said he would be more than happy to meet with anyone concerned about the prospect of losing a tree and see if it would be possible to preserve the tree.

Mary Soucy, who stands to lose several trees near her home, asked what might happen to the stonewall along the front of her property.

Commenting that one resident of the area had agreed to let the highway department move his entire stone wall further back onto his property as part of the project, Roberts assured Soucy that any damage done to her wall will be repaired, and encouraged her and other residents to come to him personally with any problems they might encounter.

Mary Roberge said she and her husband were worried about the prospect of losing a pair of trees (one a pine, the other a large maple) that have helped to screen their property from the road over the years, and asked whether it would be possible to spare either or both of the trees.

Roberts said he would be willing to visit the Roberges' property and take a look at the two trees, but advised Roberge that the pine (a species that he said tends not to last very long and becomes more dangerous and unstable as it ages) will "probably have to go."

Following the public hearing, the board granted Roberts authorization to put the tree removal phase of the project out to bid within the next few weeks.

Project updates

Appearing before the board again at a later point in the meeting for his regular department head's report, Roberts provided updates on the remaining projects the highway department has undertaken this year.

On Muchado Hill Road, he said, the grinding and grading have been completed, and a two-inch binder coat of pavement was slated to be put down this past Tuesday (June 22).

New culverts have been installed along Stockbridge Corner Road, he explained, adding that the department is now waiting for a permit from the DES to install another new culvert at the intersection of Stockbridge Corner and Route 28.

Asked by Selectman Peter Bolster whether he planned to pave the east-bound side of Stockbridge Corner down to the New Durham town line, Roberts said his suggestion, given recent rumors about a gravel pit opening up soon on the New Durham stretch, would be to "pave it to the last house," and recommended that the board contact town officials in New Durham to see what, if any, plans they might have for Stockbridge Corner.

Turning to the Quarry Road and Hollywood Beach Road projects, Roberts informed the board that he would be bringing forward a proposal to put down an overlay on both roads shortly.

Addressing concerns about the Bay Hill Road project, which the town entered into in the hope that the state would provide assistance that has not yet materialized, Roberts said the highway department has now sunk "well over" $110,000 into the repairs.

If the state does not come through with its promised support in the near future, he added, "we may need to re-consider where we're at."

With the Bay Hill project topping $110,000, the Muchado Hill improvements totaling $122,000, and the Stockbridge Corner repairs approaching $184,000, he explained, the highway department may soon have to "slow down" and re-prioritize its list of projects due to a shortage of funding unless something gives at Bay Hill.

Wrapping up his list of updates, Roberts announced that the application of calcium chloride to the roads that needed it was set to be completed earlier this week, and that the highway department has also been working to re-ditch the town's dirt roads.

Picking up on a comment Roberts made during the public hearing about the possibility of Coffin Brook Road residents being asked by highway crews for permission to park the department's excavator (which was severely damaged by vandals after being left on Hollywood Beach Road overnight following the July 2008 tornado) on their property for a night or two for security reasons, Selectman Loring Carr asked whether the highway department has any such agreements in place.

Roberts replied that his crews usually just "knock on doors," and have found people to be very cooperative so far.

Questioning whether it would be helpful for the highway department to develop a list of residents willing to have equipment stored on their property, both as a safety measure and as a way to cut down on mileage, Carr also asked whether Roberts had considered pursuing the idea of establishing satellite locations for rock crushing.

Bolster asked whether it would be possible for the town to contract with local sand and gravel pit owners for the use of their properties as rock crushing or equipment storage sites.

Carr suggested that the board discuss the idea at a future work session.

Free collection days?

Informing his fellow board members that he had noticed an increasing amount of debris, such as discarded furniture and household appliances, accruing on roadsides throughout town recently, Selectman Steve McMahon suggested that the town offer residents who are unable or unwilling to pay the disposal fees for such items a chance to dispose of them properly by hosting free collection days at the transfer station.

"It's something we ought to think about doing," he said, suggesting that two free collection days be offered every year — one in the spring, and another in the fall.

Bolster was hesitant to support the proposal, stating his belief that people would put off disposing of household items until the free collection days rolled around, resulting in a loss of revenue.

"I'd rather see us lose revenue and keep the town clean than see [debris] laying on the side of the road," McMahon replied.

"I think we should explore it," board Chairman Dave Hussey said, commenting that the board had discussed the idea of organizing a free collection day for household items in the past, but backed away from it due to the cost of having town trucks drive around and pick up discarded items.

With Bolster commenting that the board could set ground rules for a collection day (such as allowing residents to dispose of one item for free, but charging them for the rest), Carr suggested that the town offer people an incentive to participate by holding a lottery at the transfer station, with tickets handed out to residents who bring in a certain number of items, giving them a shot at a cash prize.

"You want to clean up the town?" he asked. "That's your thing."

Bolster asked whether it would be possible to establish a free disposal program for residents who are facing economic hardship, and cannot afford the disposal fees for furniture and appliances.

The board ultimately agreed to table the idea until its next meeting, asking Town Administrator Russell Bailey to get transfer station Director Scott Simonds' take on it in the meantime.

Odds and ends

In other business, the board awarded a bid for gravel, stone, sand, and riprap to K&B Crushing, and authorized Bailey to sign an agreement stating that the town will maintain the sidewalks being constructed around the perimeter of the traffic circle as part of the DOT's upcoming improvements.

The board also approved a new landfill monitoring agreement, a warrant for outstanding dog licenses, and an updated hazard mitigation plan, and voted to dispose of a tire machine, a plastic compactor recently taken out of service at the recycling center which will be sold to an interested party for $500; an organ with bench; several countertops and desk tops; and eight printers.

At Carr's suggestion, the board instructed Bailey to ask whether the fire department might be interested in several strobe lights that were included on the disposal list.

The board also discussed a request for a stop sign on Alton Mountain Road at the point where it intersects with Avery Hill Road, but put a final vote on the matter on hold pending a visit to the site.

Brendan Berube can be reached at 569-3126 or bberube@salmonpress.com

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