CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Highway Department will attempt to clean up the crumbling Stewart White Road in attempt to make it more drivable.
Highway Superintendent Blair Crane told the Selectmen last week that in the coming weeks, the department will be conducting some "major surgery" on the road.
"There we will be sweeping and we will be doing what we can with that piece of property," he said. "It is not in very good shape, actually it is one of the worst roads in town."
Crane said the road at one point was asphalt but years of neglect and outdated engineering have left it in disrepair.
"There was a lot of farm equipment going over there over the years and road construction back then wasn't what it is today," he said. "We do what we can to maintain it but there are a dozen houses up there so I understand the residents' concerns and I will do everything I can to alleviate the problem."
He said what the road really needs is a complete overhaul with a new 4-inch layer of pavement — unfortunately, this would cost $171,000 per half a mile.
Instead, Crane said the department will sweep the road, clear boulders farther off to the sides and bucket-patch real problem areas
"We will go up there with approximately 40 tons of asphalt and ... try to do the best we can," he said. "There is no perfect solution but from all sides, this is the only option we have."
Crane said the bucket patch material should cost between $4,000 and $5,000 and will allow the town to limp through, however, the town will need a more permanent fix in the future.
On a lighter note, Crane said the Highway Department finished all the crack sealing work and was actually able to extend material and seal a few more roads.
"I went out and tested it to really see how well it was setting and was able to take a putty knife and I couldn't get up underneath," he said. "So, I am optimistic it will do us well over the winter and push these roads out five, six or seven years."
Crane added that in the next few weeks Church and Main streets as well as Wells and Windsor roads will be lined.
Continuing with his report, Crane said he will open up the Highway Department campus for leaf and trimming removal through the fall however it will only be for leaves and trimmings.
"These are materials that we don't throw away these are recyclable materials that we make compost out of," he said. "It is really important that there is no broken glass, trash or plastic in there. We just want grass and leaves but it is amazing what I find in there."
Looking beyond the fall, Crane said equipment will be readied for snowfall and go through a test run.
"I know it is a bad four-letter word to be talking about but we will be going through a dry run and hooking all the trucks up with plows and making sure everything works," Crane said. "Essentially we will be acting as if it were getting snow in 72 hours ... I don't want to be addressing issues with snow in the forecast."
In other business, Town Administrator Mark Webber said he contacted the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and he is scheduled to start good faith bargaining with the newly formed highway workers union Oct. 17.
"She's going to come here and try to slam a deal," Webber said. "She will bring a proposal and we will discuss it in executive session."
Webber added that after getting his hands on a 1937 map of the county, that also happens to be on the wall in the Selectmen's meeting room, the enigmatic Greylock Road may actually belong to the town.
"We could have just stood up and closed the door to read it but I think we had this discussion seven years ago and yes, it is an accepted road," he said.
The Selectmen were unsure if the old carriage road, which is impassible by vehicles at a certain point, is the town's responsibility to maintain. The town currently only maintains it to the last house on the road.
Selectwoman Carol Francesconi said although it may be a town road, it is not an accepted road because of its condition. She said it is a leftover county road.
Crane said he was unsure what to do with the "ambiguous" road and Webber said he would contact Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, which has all of the old county maps, and have it weigh in.
Continuing with other possible maintenance projects, Francesconi brought the Selectmen's attention to Town Hall and a hole that has developed on the roof.
"Coming up Dean Street there is a hole in the roof right around the soffit," she said. "It really has to be done before winter or we will lose everything."
Selectman Edmund St. John IV said he would get an estimate on the project.
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