By Lisa Loomis
Waitsfield Select Board wants public input into whether the shoulder on one side of Joslin Hill Road should be added to make it safer place for cyclists and pedestrians.
The town had previously planned to use an engineer to access whether a shoulder could be added when the road is repaved, and the town had secured a grant to pay for the engineering of shoulder widening. But some members of the select board now would like to see the town forfeit that grant.
The board discussed the Joslin Hill Road at its August 25 meeting. Board member Scott Kingsbury raised the issue, asking whether there would be an opportunity for those who may have concerns about the project to voice them before it is engineered. Town administrator Valerie Capels said that the bid documents include a public meeting and a meeting with the engineer and select board.
"Are we obligated by the grant to have an engineer do the work?" asked select board chair Paul Hartshorn. Capels told him that the grant was specifically to hire an engineer to evaluate adding a shoulder and that the grant was sought as a result of public input through the Safe Routes to School public hearings about lack of space for pedestrians and bikers.
"One of the goals was to see if it would be possible to have some form of shoulder on one side of the road.
"It's the same with the North Road, East Warren Road and Common Road. They have the same concern on all those roads. We're having trouble affording to maintain what we have. It's one of the most historic roads in Waitsfield. To widen we're going to be cutting someone's valuable trees or taking out stone walls," Kingsbury said.
"I'm concerned with trying to make every road in town so that people can do their recreation on it. Some things aren't meant to be, and you don't go spend a billion dollars because five people want them," board member Chris Pierson said.
"We're already spending how much money on conservation land and trails and bike trails?" Pierson asked.
Kingsbury suggested that adding a shoulder would make people drive faster and questioned whether that would be safer.
"Grants complicate things. I think we should do it on the down and dirty. It's town infrastructure. We should fix it as cheaply as possible," board member Logan Cooke said.
"This is out to bid. We need to talk to folks in the community who brought this about. A decision was already made to go forward this way. We need to have a public discussion before I pull the plug on this. The pre-bid meeting is September 9 and the bids are due on September 18," Capels said.
The board will discuss the issue of adding a shoulder to one side of Joslin Hill Road at its September 8 meeting.