Cara Cheyette’s request for a sign indicating limited access to Hall Road, an unmaintained, Class 4 road, was first.
Cheyette told the board that “easily five cars a week” drive onto Hall Road and find themselves stranded. After turning around, the cars often go “tearing back” down the road at an unwise speed. Cheyette thought that a sign indicating a dead end could not be used, but board chair Lewis Sumner told her that a dead end sign is both permissible and preferable.
There are a number of roads in the town that are not passable for their entire length. Drivers from out of the area often use GPS to choose their routes: unfortunately, GPS does not indicate that those roads are discontinuous and at least partially impassable.
After a brief discussion, the board directed highway supervisor Bradley Rafus to look into buying and putting up dead end signs at the entrances to all of those roads.
Earl Holtz reported that there are three sites, two on Green River Road and one on Hale Road, that are being considered for federally reimbursed river-debris removal. Fallen trees constitute most of the debris. “Probably,” Holtz said, “the trees will be cut, but their root systems will be left in place.”
There will be another check on the sites by the government agents involved on Friday before final approval is given for the project.
Cheyette asked if the debris project is looking at the possibility of invasive species carried into the area by Tropical Storm Irene. Holtz told her that it is not; that river beds in Halifax were mostly scoured clean rather than invaded with new species. Holtz advised that the Windham Regional Commission would be the most useful source of information on Cheyette’s concerns.
Purchasing agent Joseph Tamburrino told the board that quite a few bidders attended the site meeting for the Reed Hill bridge, but he did not yet know how many decided to submit a bid for the construction job. The board plans to open bids at the next regular meeting on July 17, and to hold a special meeting on July 18, at 1:30 pm, to go over the bids with SVE, the engineering firm that produced the design for the bridge. The final decision will be made by July 20.
Tamburrino advised that SVE be hired to oversee construction of the bridge, as no one in the town government is qualified to do that job. Holtz and Sumner directed Tamburrino to get a quote on the supervisory job from SVE.
The question of reimbursement for the Weir Road bridge is still undecided. Sumner reported that town attorney Robert Fisher will be sending a letter on the matter to the state. In addition to the evidence the town has provided that Weir Road, however truncated, is, as a matter of law, a town highway, Fisher will point out that several private bridges that were destroyed by Irene were not replaced or repaired by the town.
Rafus told the board that all Irene-generated repaving and shoulder work is done, leaving just the bridges. The town also needs to replenish its gravel supplies, which were wiped out well before road reconstruction was completed. Rafus estimated that 12,000 to 14,000 yards were used. He expects to need at least 3,000 yards in the coming year. The board directed Rafus to get quotes for gravel that meets state specifications. Rafus also reminded the board that the $127,000 in the equipment fund was spent on storm recovery and must be replaced. No immediate solution to that problem was proposed.
On a happier note, Sumner announced that the town has received two more FEMA reimbursement checks, one for $87,000 and one for $397,000.
After investigating the possibility of renting a mower to cut roadside grass and brush, Rafus reported that availability is extremely limited and costs high. The board voted to accept the $56 per hour mowing bid submitted by Andrew Rockwell. Looking toward the future, Holtz asked if area towns might be interested in a joint purchase of a machine that all could use in turn. Rafus said several towns, such as Whitingham, already own the equipment, and that towns have tended to shy away from such arrangements, fearing problems with maintenance and repairs. Holtz suggested conferring with towns like Readsboro and Marlboro, which do not own mowing machines. Rafus said he will look into it.
Cheyette brought up the question of whether she and Michael Drummey, the other property owner living on Hall Road, could get any reimbursement for the replacement culvert they put in after Irene. Rafus pointed out that the town is responsible for culverts and bridges on otherwise unmaintained Class 4 roads. No one was sure whether the fact that the owners have made some improvements to the road relieves the town of responsibility. Holtz told Cheyette that individuals may be eligible for some government assistance for storm losses, but not through FEMA.
In other business, the board voted to sign a contract with the Vermont State Police for police services in the upcoming year.