The Selectmen made a site visit to the deteriorating Gates Avenue bridge on Wednesday night.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen is planning field trip before it holds a public hearing on a gravel pit owner's request for a rock crusher.
Chairman Jeffrey Levanos made the suggestion to visit a rock crushing operation, possibly in Dalton, to get an idea of what most neighbors are concerned about: The noise.
"We would all actually hear how loud it is," he said on Wednesday.
The decision came during another field trip closer to home as the board reviewed the condition of the Gates Avenue bridge and a possible temporary roadway around it through property owned by gravel pit owner Michael Milazzo.
Milazzo is willing to work with the town to provide access to the dead-end Gates Avenue during reconstruction of the bridge just off North Houghton Street. He's also seeking a change in conditions to his gravel pit, located between Gates and Wheeler avenues, to open an hour earlier and install the rock crusher.
The dirt road connecting his home at the top of Wheeler Avenue to Gates Avenue could save the town the nearly a half-million dollars required for a temporary bridge while the culvert on Gates is replaced.
The Selectmen have said the two parts — rock crusher and road — are separate items. Milazzo, on Wednesday night, also made it clear he's not looking for a direct quid pro quo.
"I am open to discussing anything that keeps my taxes low," he said, in response to a query over the road.
Town officials are hoping to avoid temporary roads and bridges altogether.
Town Administrator Carl McKinney said he's been in contact with the state Department of Transportation to propose installing a new culvert right next to the current one, and use the old culvert as the temporary bridge.
"We could use our Chapter 90 money for that," he said. "We have $317,000 in Chapter 90 [road money] now."
New engineering and design would have to be done, which he estimated at about $10,000 to $20,000; the new culvert has been estimated at about $200,000.
The proposal depends on whether the town can acquire the land, which is privately owned, and whether the state Department of Environmental Protection will agree. The board unanimously voted for McKinney to pursue the proposal and come back with more information.
Several residents of Gates Avenue wondered if the current bridge would last through another winter, pointing to the deterioration of the stone work, failed guard rails and collapsed pavement.
McKinney said if should fail, the town would be able to take emergency action. As it stands now, the work would not be done until next spring.
The board, Conservation Commission Chairman Clebe Scott and several residents also walked along Milazzo's road, which winds through woodlands from his mother's property on Gates Avenue.
The road would need grading and rerouting toward Milazzo's house before it descends into the gravel pit.
Milazzo also pointed out where the rock crusher would go. He plans to set it in the ground about 10 to 15 feet and raise berms around it to reduce noise. The crushing would be intermittent and he said he was willing to discuss hours of operation.
"It's not going to be all day every day," he said, and it would be closed during the winter.
The rocks crushed would be 6 inches or less and the material would contain a lot of sand and dirt that would also reduce the noise.
"It's smaller so it takes longer and goes slower but it's also not as noisy," said Milazzo.
In response to the board's questions, he said he hadn't decided whether to lease or buy, or what size he would get since it would depend on the outcome of the permit. He also balked at installing one as proposed just so the board could listen to it because of the expense.
"I'm not investing $200,000 in equipment for a test," he said. He pointed out how close he and his mother lived to the gravel operation. "I'm living here you know. ... I'm not putting it out in a place I'm not living in. My mother lives here."
The board agreed to have McKinney find out if a public hearing was necessary for the request to start at 7 a.m., and to place the setting of a hearing on the change of use (the rock crusher) on the agenda for its meeting next week. Both Selectman William Schrade Jr. and Levanos said they wanted to resolve the issue as soon as possible.
It was expected the public hearing would be held on Sept. 24, the same day as the special town meeting; Selectwoman Linda Reardon suggested the hearing be held immediately after the public meeting.
"We're not trying to be obstructive ... we're trying to do it right," she told Milazzo. "I do want some more information."
Michael Buck of Gates Avenue said he'd moved there because of the quiet.
"To be honest, I don't want to listen to a crusher," he told Milazzo. "But right now, I'm neutral."
In other business: the board authorized McKinney to enter into an electrical aggregation agreement with other towns on on Sept. 17 and approved new police detail rates of $38 per hour/$57 holiday and overtime, $18 per hour for cruisers and a 10 percent administrative surcharge. The increase brings Clarksburg in line with North Adams' rates.