By Lisa Loomis

With the select board divided on whether to rebuild or simply shim Joslin Hill Road, the town wants to hear from the public on the matter.

The select board is hosting a public forum on December 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the town offices to discuss the future repair of the road. The select board members want to know whether they should spend $75,000 to shim the road, a fix estimated to last three to five years, or whether the town should bond to rebuild the road in 2015.

The select board, at a November 24 meeting, was split with two members favoring moving ahead with total reconstruction, two favoring the shim and one undecided. The cost of total reconstruction has been discussed at previous meetings with a price tag of $1 million to $2 million.

The board, after its December 8 meeting this week, received a recommendation from road commissioner Charlie Goodman. Goodman's recommendation includes a detailed plan for the 1.2-mile reconstruction project that includes widening the road to 24 feet of travelable surface. He noted that the roads the town has reconstructed in the past 30 years have been that criteria. Those roads include Brook Road, East Warren Road and North Road.

He suggests removing trees on the upper flats section that will impact the widening of the road as well as on the hill. On the hill he recommends that the ditches be 2.5- feet deep. On the lower flats, as Joslin Hill intersects East Warren Road, he suggests that the many egresses on that section be improved.

"My thought for a staging area and a place to work all the trees from, about 80, would be a corner of the old Richards property, near the top of the hill," Goodman wrote.

"I know that some folks want to push forward with this now. I can only say that with the two very major projects that are going to start in 2015 and lasting into 2016, (Bridge Street and municipal office) and the paving that needs to be done on Tremblay, North and Old County Roads, plus the general summer work, and with the large Joslin Hill culvert not yet repaired, there is too much going on. That is why I have recommended the shim on Joslin Hill. The proposed $75,000 shim will last five years or more and it will be a road that we will be able to drive and maintain. (We did do a patch with gravel and pavement six years ago and it is still working.) Anything outside of the description that I have given you will only lead to a compromise to the road reconstruction. The folks have said they want a road to accommodate cars, bikes and people. This proposal will do that nicely. There is not enough room to accomplish this within the roadway that is there now," he suggested.

Earlier this year, in September, the board voted to reject a state grant to assess the feasibility of improving pedestrian and bike access on the road by a tie vote that board chair Paul Hartshorn broke after stating his dislike of engineers. Board members Scott Kingsbury and Chris Pierson voted to reject the grant and board members Sal Spinosa and Logan Cooke voted against rejecting it.

The original decision to pursue the grant to study the feasibility of improving pedestrian and cyclist safety had to do with neighbors' concerns about possibly widening the road or shoulders as well as the safety issues. That work was wrapped into the grant which would have given the board some answers and projected costs in time for this year's budget work. When the board rejected the grant in September a citizens committee was supposed to work with Capels on the feasibility of improving safety while balancing the concern of the neighbors.