With that out of the way, the board settled down to the serious spending, voting to approve a salt contract for the coming winter, and to purchase a new one-ton truck. Highway supervisor Bradley Rafus told the board that Cargill, the only bidder for the town’s salt contracts, has raised its price this year from about $68 per ton to $82.55 per ton. It could have been worse; board chair Lewis Sumner noted that this is the district 2 price. The price quoted for district 1 is $90 per ton. Rafus observed that if the state uses the same amount of salt as last year, its costs will be up by $2.5 million.
The board chose the least expensive truck option available, a 2014 Ford from Gateway at $42,522, with an equipment package from Fairfield at $36,990. The board voted to do a lease/purchase contract through the bank rather than through Ford Credit; the bank’s interest rate is nearly 3% less than Ford’s.
Edee Edwards told the board the town has received three applications for the administrative assistant’s job. When Sumner and Earl Holtz have reviewed the applications, the board will decide which candidates to interview, probably within the next two weeks. One benefit the board hopes for from hiring an assistant is the end of 8 am Monday meetings.
The board has been considering the possibility of paving Old County North Road from Green River Road to the new bridge. Rafus told them that if the road is not paved, substantial amounts of dirt will wash down onto the deck. The only estimate Rafus has received for the job is $10,000. Board members decided the expense is not justified at this time; the town will hold off on it and see how the new bridge works over the next year. Holtz suggested the matter can be reviewed when Lane Construction gets around to repairing faulty work on Green River Road.
A discussion of the impact on local roads of the proposed schist quarry almost didn’t take place. “It’s not on the agenda,” said Edwards, “so we can’t talk about it.”
“I’m a visitor,” piped up Rafus, “and I’m asking!” The ensuing discussion centered on two problem spots, Stark Mountain Road and a 1,530-foot class 4 section of Old Stage Road.
Edwards has suggested that the town has a “moral obligation” to keep Old Stage Road passable for all emergency personnel. “It’s not a moral issue,” declared Holtz, “at least, not for the town. The applicant should pay for upgrading and maintenance, They are responsible for their employees’ safety. If the business is not willing, that’s their moral dilemma.” Holtz said. Rafus agreed.
“I think we’re making a mountain out of an ant hill,” Sumner interjected, reminding his colleagues that in between Old Stage Road and the quarry site is “a mile of private road we have no control over.” The board ultimately agreed that the town will not offer to upgrade and maintain Old Stage Road or discuss the potential costs of doing so. The town will, however, express its concerns regarding emergency access to the quarry site.
That left Stark Mountain Road, which is maintained by the town. Rafus told the board that widening the narrow section of the road would be difficult and expensive, as it is bordered by a steep drop-off to a brook on one side and by ledge on the other. “It took five years for the bank to stabilize,” after a stump on the bank was dug up, he added. Edwards asked Rafus to determine how many linear feet of guard rail and what sort of bank armoring would be required to make the road safer.
Finally, Edwards distributed a chart estimating the relative impacts of trucks and cars on gravel roads, using conversion data developed by the state of Alaska. Given the estimated amounts and weights of stone to be shipped and the number of truck trips proposed, the total equivalent car trips in one year would be 2,204,049.