Ossipee selectmen get budget committee approval to withdraw emergency funds
Public input well received at NHDOT hearing on Route 16
September 29, 2011OSSIPEE— The budget committee here has approved withdrawing up to $220,000 from the town's surplus to pay for damages caused by Tropical Storm Irene earlier this month. Budget committee members signed a letter that will now go to New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration asking permission for selectmen to withdraw the funds from the town's "rainy day fund." Initial estimates put the cost of repairing Marble Road and replacing a bridge on that Class VI road at $170,000. The remaining $50,000 will be used, only if needed, to make minor repairs to other roads in town that were damaged in the storm. The question of whether or not the town will receive reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) remains unanswered, though. The Public Works Director Brad Harriman met with FEMA officials who are soon expected to visit the site and make a reimbursement determination.
According to selectmen, the road is classified as a Class VI town road and there are two houses beyond the washout area and both are owned by Dr. Michael Glick. While the first house is in Ossipee, the second is actually in Moultonborough but Marble Road provides the only access to it. Selectmen said they are not responsible for bringing the road up to Class V or better standards but are responsible for keeping all town roads passable by emergency vehicles. FEMA officials decide reimbursement for Class VI roads on a case-by-case basis and reimbursement is not automatic. During Monday's selectmen's meeting, Chairman Morton Leavitt said the owner of surrounding forest land, Chocorua Forest Lands, offered to donate gravel to the town to offset the cost of the project. Glick's attorney, however, has written a letter to block that, alleging Chocorua Forest Lands does not have a permitted gravel pit and therefore the donation would be illegal. Selectmen will be reviewing that further to find out if there is any way to legally accept the donation.
Route 16 improvements
In other road news, Alex Vogt of NH Department of Transportation attended Monday's selectmen's meeting to hear public comment about Route 16 projects that are in the preliminary planning stage and slated to begin in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
The first stretch of highway is the intersection of Route 16 and Route 28 and north 3.36 miles. That area is slated for improvements in 2014 with $3 million currently in the NHDOT budget.
Vogt left the conversation open for the public and selectmen to tell the problems and suggestions they have for that stretch of road. Concerns were raised about the lack of turning or breakdown lanes in the stretch of road from Green Mountain Furniture down to the traffic light. Years ago, explained Vogt, NH DOT had proposed rerouting the highway behind the businesses along that stretch of road with access exits off the new section of Route 16. That plan did not receive support from those businesses at the time so it was nixed and nothing was done.
Vogt was asked if NHDOT could do anything to change the timing of the lights at the Route 16 and Route 28 intersection, especially on Sundays in the summer and fall, to keep traffic flowing as vacationers make their exit. While Vogt said he would look into that. Mark McConkey said the police do have the ability to change the timing of the light but it is not being done.
Several people commented on another ongoing issue on that end of town, the many traffic accidents that have occurred at the Route 28 and Route 171 intersection. Though not officially confirmed as the cause of all accidents at that intersection, the consensus at Monday's meeting was that when drivers turn right onto Route 28 from Route 16 the turn is too gradual to automatically cancel the car's turn signal once the car has turned onto Route 28. When the car approaches the Route 171 intersection with its directional still blinking, those waiting to enter Route 28 from Route 171 think the car is turning right and pull out in front of the oncoming car. Vogt said this issue can be looked at in the overall study of possible improvements.
Intersection improvements in West Ossipee are currently slated for 2015 with $1.6 million in the NHDOT 10-year plan. Can a traffic light be installed at the junction of Route 16 and Route 41? Can the light timer be changed at Route 16 and Route 25 West to keep southbound traffic on Sundays flowing? Vogt said traffic studies will be done to determine if additional traffic signals are warranted. Years ago several hearings were held as well as a design charrette where a group of citizens and planners created a design meant to increase pedestrian safety, improve traffic flow, and change West Ossipee from a drive through to a welcoming place for visitors. The plan included a roundabout being installed, improved signage, aligning Route 41 with Route 25 West, and tunneling under Route 16 for safer passage for snowmobilers. The plan fizzled out after public support faded following public hearings in which several business owners in the area objected to the plan.
McConkey, who was very active in that planning work, asked that in whatever new plan is brought forward that pedestrian safety remain of strong concern.
The third project on Route 16 is the replacement of three bridges slated to go out to bid in Spring 2016. Vogt said these bridges are on the state's "red list," are in poor condition, and need to be replaced. There is $9 million in the current state budget for replacement of these bridges.
The first bridge is one that crosses the Lovell River near the Indian Mound Golf Course. Selectman Harry Merrow asked that the planners consider possibly building up the roadway and the bridge because it is a known flood area. During Tropical Storm Irene, and also during past heavy rainstorms in the fall or during spring snowmelt, the river overflows, shutting down Route 16. And there is no easy way around this problem for travelers. To bypass the bridge and get back onto Route 16, drivers have two options. The first is crossing through the Ossipee Mountains with entrance points either in Center Ossipee Village or Pine Hill Road across from the Pizza Barn. The second option is via Route 25 East to Ossipee Lake Road to Route 41, and crossing through town lines of Ossipee, Effingham, Freedom, Tamworth and Madison. Fortunately, the bridge has not sustained substantial damage during any of the storms and therefore has not been closed for more than a few hours at a time.
According to traffic statistics found at the NHDOT website, the average annual daily traffic count in this area of Route 16 is 11,000 vehicle trips per day.
The other two bridges that are listed in poor condition and in need of replacement are known to locals as the "twin bridges." In the area of O'Keefes store on Route 16, the southerly bridge crosses the Bearcamp River and the northerly one is meant to cross over runoff from the Bearcamp River.
A few people at Monday's hearing said the runoff bridge is unnecessary as they have never seen water under that bridge. Officials said that determining if the second bridge is necessary will be part of the planning process. The current bridges have steel grates between the travel lanes and the railings. Many expressed these are not safe for bicycle and pedestrian traffic and officials assured the group that new bridges would have paved lanes and not the steel grates.
Beyond the areas of Route 16 improvement currently planned in the state's 10-year plan, other public comments regarding troublesome intersections will also be taken into consideration. Officials were asked to consider installing centerline rumble strips along the entire stretch of Route 16 through Ossipee and to remember that the entire stretch of the highway through Ossipee sits atop the aquifer and careful consideration should be given to contaminant runoff and erosion control.
Officials were also asked to take a close look at the Route 16/Route 16B/Pine River Road intersection. It was noted that there have been several accidents at that intersection as drivers try to cross Route 16 and are essentially trying to cross six lanes – two turn lanes, two breakdown lanes, and two high speed travel lanes.
Officials were commended for the work done to improve the site of several serious and fatal accidents, Route 25 East/Route 153 North intersection in Effingham. Recent improvements there include cutting trees to improve sightlines, installation of a median and horizontal rumble strips as well as signs warning of the upcoming intersection.
Vogt said Monday's hearing was one of many that will occur and the public is welcome to send their comments and suggestions regarding any of the proposed projects to Alex Vogt, Project Manager at NHDOT, PO Box 483, Concord, NH 03302 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boat launch improvements
Officials from NH Fish and Game held a public hearing last week regarding their planned improvements to the public boat launch, the only free access to Ossipee Lake for boaters. The plan for the launch on Route 25 East is improved parking and traffic flow and the installation of a second concrete timber launch pad to ease congestion of boaters trying to get into the river and onto the lake.
Selectmen, at the suggestion of Ossipee resident Jean Hansen, will be sending a follow-up letter to officials asking them to include funding for milfoil monitoring in their improvement plans as well as cleanup of accumulated leaves and other muck off the floor of the launch basin.
The Freight House
Selectmen have received preliminary plans for renovations to the recently acquired former freight house at the corner of Main Street and Moultonville Road. Engineers who prepared the plan will be invited to attend an upcoming selectmen's meeting to discuss their overall approval of the plan and also changes they would like made. It has been discussed at past selectmen's meetings that the plan for the building is to house the town's land use boards and provide much needed meeting space and storage of town records.