Derry highway crew, Select Board discussion kicks off organizing of road work, maintenance

The Londonderry Select Board meets with the town road crew to discuss organizational issues and efficiency. All photos by Bruce Frauman.

By Bruce Frauman
©2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Londonderry Select Board and the town’s three-person road crew agree in principal, but not yet in the details, that more planning would help the road crew work more efficiently.

The board met in a Special Session on Wednesday, April 10, primarily to evaluate the road crew in executive session. Still, they took about half an hour in open session to encourage the road crew to get organized  as well as discuss other Highway Department matters.

Board chair Jim Ameden suggested that the crew do more planning and organizing as well as increase communications internally and with the Select Board.

Ameden distributed a document he had written titled “Road Crew Items.” Under “Winter Season,” he stressed equipment and road maintenance, such as sand and salt applications that “need to be constantly monitored and adjustments made to limit excess use and environmental impact.” During the meeting, Ameden said the town has no guidelines on the rate of salt and sand to be put on the roads nor are there written maintenance procedures for trucks.

Board chair Jim Ameden discusses the document he had written to help the road crew.

Under “Summer Season,” Ameden wrote that “Ditching, Grading, Chloride application, Brush cutting/clearing, and road site mowing are all critical.” He also recommended, “Developing a more comprehensive agenda for the summer season (with the assistance of the board).”

Then, “as a starting point to get projects on paper,” Ameden distributed a spread sheet of a draft monthly schedule written by Town Administrator Shane O’Keefe to the board and the road crew, but not to the public.

Ameden’s document also stressed the idea of developing, then following procedures for proper maintenance of all equipment, cleaning the equipment, and making repairs “before they become bigger problems.”

Ameden also recommended new guidelines for vehicle, equipment and building maintenance, and winter and summer highway maintenance. He wrote that planning and scheduling these procedures should give the “board a means to monitor productivity, and help bridge the communication gap between the board and road crew.” He also wrote that they should help catch “issues before they become big problems.”

Newest road crew member Josh Dryden said that when he was foreman of the Windham road crew, he sent a weekly agenda to the town’s select board.

Road foreman Mathew Rawson foreground, says he’s learning how to organize as board members Tom Cavanagh and Bob Forbes listen.

Ameden said he would like to prioritize projects based on road crew input. He added  that the crew has to work around the vagaries of the weather, so that if  it was planning to cut brush, but the weather was good for grading, it might make more sense to grade. Dryden said each dirt road should be graded two or three times each year. Ameden suggested making a day out of a spot rather than working for two hours then moving the equipment 4 miles across town for another two hours of work.

Foreman Mathew Rawson said he would take the blame for being disorganized, adding that he is still learning and will “definitely improve.”

Board member George Mora said the crew could be “more methodical.” And board member Taylor Prouty added that the goal was not to micromanage the road crew. Ameden said “we have a great crew” who are still “feeling each other out.” He said the board will “help give you the means to make things go smoother.”

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