Created on Thursday, 28 June 2007 06:37
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 June 2007 07:17
By Erin Post
The Warren Select Board decided against paving two sections of road after residents spoke out in opposition to the proposal.
Many cited West Hill Road's rural beauty in arguing against paving a roughly eight-tenths of a mile section from the Golf Course Road to Inferno Road. Although the board also voted down paving about 800 feet of Lincoln Gap Road, the final tally was a close three to two, and public opposition was less fierce.
"My primary concern initially is aesthetics," said Warren resident Arnold Livingston in regard to West Hill Road. Tourists often stop to photograph his sugarhouse on the road, he said during a public hearing June 26, and linger to take in the views.
Sightseers on foot are common as well.
"It's really an unofficial walking and biking and everything else trail," said Warren resident Judy Phelon.
Although the town may save some money by paving, she argued that the picturesque setting should be preserved.
"It's one of the few beautiful places left," she said.
Others pointed to the economic advantage of maintaining rural areas. Susan Hemmeter cited visitors from more urban states like New Jersey and Massachusetts who come to enjoy the countryside and end up patronizing local businesses.
"That is worth money to the town," she said.
Some residents also pointed to the potential for additional speeding motorists on a route that has become a shortcut to the Lincoln Peak base area.
"There's no question in my mind that if it's paved, the speed will pick up," said Warren resident Deborah Wetmore.
Despite the scenic quality of the area, the town has to consider the cost of maintaining unpaved roads, road foreman Richard Robinson told the crowd.
He said he worked 75-hour weeks for three weeks straight this year trying to keep unpaved roads graded and passable.
Figures compiled by the town show that the cost of maintaining a gravel road is about $23,000 per year for one mile of road, a dollar amount that includes labor for grading and ditch work, diesel fuel, chloride treatment, equipment maintenance and other expenses. For a blacktop road, the number runs closer to $16,000 per year per mile.
Town administrator Cindi Hartshorn-Jones added that as gravel resources in Vermont become more scarce, the price is going to jump and the town will be forced to truck material from further away. With the cost of diesel fuel ever on the rise, tax bills may be affected.
"It's something that the public really needs to look at," she said.
She said the town is in the middle of a comprehensive road analysis to determine maintenance costs for all roads. This should help to create a long-term plan for paving and upkeep.
The select board took this study -- which will likely be complete by late September -- and an ongoing traffic analysis near Sugarbush into consideration when making their decision.
The board decided to hold off on paving West Hill Road until the analysis and traffic study are complete. They also are considering a public discussion at Town Meeting. Then, the board can create objective criteria for determining which roads should be paved.
"In some ways it's the most important decision that we, as a board, can make," said select board chair Mac Rood in reference to road upkeep, noting that it directly impacts residents' environment and day-to-day lives.
Some residents spoke in favor of either paving or improving the 800 feet of Lincoln Gap Road beginning at the West Hill Road intersection.
"In the spring it's totally impassable," said Warren resident Gary Eckhart. "Something needs to be done with that 800 feet."
Hartshorn-Jones, speaking as a Lincoln Road resident, said she has had to get out of her vehicle and walk home when the road is in rough shape.
Select board member Barry Simpson also advocated for paving the section of Lincoln Gap Road.
"I see a real difference in the character of these two roads," he said, pointing out that the gap road is a feeder road to towns over the mountains, while West Hill Road is part of a network of local roads.
As with West Hill Road, the board opted to make no changes to Lincoln Gap Road until the analysis is complete and more discussion can take place.