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A view from the top of Maple Drive, a dead-end road off Route 116. Although not a heavily traveled road, it is in bad condition.

Cheshire May Not Be Able to Pave Maple Drive

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The town may not be able to pave Maple Drive because the state currently does not see it as an accepted road.
Town Administrator Mark Webber told the Selectmen last Tuesday that Maple Drive may have to be nixed from the fall Chapter 90 reimbursement project list because even though the town voted to accept the road, this information never made it to the state.
"I was told today that there was little likelihood that Boston will process the paperwork by the time we seek Chapter 90 project reimbursement," Webber said. "There is no guarantee and it makes me nervous if we go out to bid and they don't approve it ... we won't get reimbursed." 
Earlier this month, Highway Superintendent Blair Crane said he planned to spend $250,000 from Chapter 90 to pave and improve Maple Drive, a section of Wells Road and West Mountain Road.
These roads are considered to be in the worst condition.
Webber said the latter two roads are a go but not Maple Drive. In the 1970s, the town meeting voted to accept Maple Drive as a town road, however, this information never made it to the state.
He said there is no issue correcting this communication breakdown of the past, but it would likely take time and paperwork would be complete long after the bid opening date of September 4.
Webber said moving the bid opening date really is not possible if they want to have the roads paved before snowfall. He said the town could "gamble" and just go out to bid in hopes that the paperwork is filed in time. He said this was unlikely.
The other options are to pay for the road out of pocket or add an addendum to the bid documents backing out Maple Drive.
Selectman Robert Ciskowski said although this would likely free up cash for another priority project in the future, it could alter the bids.
"By having the three of them there is an economy to bringing your equipment out," he said. "It is not like they are just going to cross out Maple. The other two might get more expensive."
Webber said part of the issue is the longtime Chapter 90 "guru" at the state Department of Transportation's District 1 office has been out of the office. He said she could probably speed up the process.
Webber said he believes she may return this week and if he could get a guarantee that she could push the paperwork through, he would be comfortable going out to bid as planned.
Selectwoman Carol Francesconi asked Webber to see if this is possible and if not they will release the addendum.
"I am for taking the chance," she said. "I know it is on the edge, but I rather be on the edge."
Crane agreed and said as long as there is an addendum ready in the hopper, it should not be a big deal to inform potential bidders in a week's time if Maple Drive is not an option.
"There is really no harm in waiting a week," Crane said. "If it is in the can all we have to do is pull the trigger."
Many Maple Drive residents attended the meeting at which Crane announced that he wanted to pave the residential road to support the project
The road is currently rippling, and another winter would likely further damage it.
In other business, Crane said he may have found a new roller that the town could afford. 
"I did find a replacement roller within our budget so I am going to delve into that a little deeper before committing anything," he said.
A few weeks ago, a vehicle ran into the parked loader. Both vehicles were totaled.  The town will collect more than what they purchased the roller, but until now Crane could not find a suitable roller for the town.
He said this roller will be slightly narrower and run on gasoline instead of diesel.
Crane said he would bring more details to the board in time. 

Tags: Chapter 90,   paving,   

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Father Tom Tent Site Becoming a Reality in Cheshire

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Father Tom Tent Site is inching closer to its "official" opening. 
Named after the former pastor of St. Mary's Church, the Rev. Thomas Begley, the site will serve through-hikers of the Appalachian Trail and give them a place to regroup for a night or two while charging electronics, replenishing their water supply, and getting rid of refuse
Highway Superintendent Robert Navin said he hopes to have the water line completed this week, which would leave just a few loose ends to tie up before making the official announcement. One very loose end is the COVID-19 pandemic and the unique safety concerns that constantly arise from the virus. 
"I've liked this idea a lot and I'm glad to see everything moving forward. With that being said I guess I just have reservations in the climate we find ourselves in making sure that everything is being cleaned as often as possible," said Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV. "I think we need adequate signage saying, to some extent, campers are using these facilities at their own risk. Whether or not it's a valid concern it's just a concern that I have." 
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