Route 11 work continues, but Derry road side mowing delayed

By Cherise Forbes
©2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Board chair George Mora began the Monday, Aug. 17 meeting of the Londonderry Select Board, held via Zoom, by providing an update on the Route 11 paving project and, later, Board member Taylor Prouty explained why the town isn’t doing roadside mowing.

Mora told the board that she and Town Administrator Shane O’Keefe recently met with engineers for the paving project, who are completing the replacement of a drainage basin in front of the Vermont Butcher Shop. According to Mora, that step went well and there were plenty of workers in place to ensure that traffic in and around the shop was not impeded.

Project engineers plan to begin replacing the drainage basin in front of Jelley’s Deli at the end of this week before moving on to cold in-place recycling, the first layer of paving. That process will take about two days, Mora said, and then it will be several weeks before the next round of paving begins. The project will not be completed until next spring or summer, O’Keefe added, due to Covid-19 related delays and the coming of cold weather.

“They will be at the second layer of paving at that point,” Mora clarified. “The road should be in pretty good shape for the winter.”  For more than four years, towns between Chester and Londonderry have complained about Route 11’s crumbling and pot-holed roadway and, after area select boards raised their voices, the state agreed to prioritize repaving, although work has been delayed several times.

Inefficient side attachment means delay in roadside mowing

Prouty, addressing multiple inquiries that he had received into why roadside mowing is not being done, said the hiatus is due to inefficient equipment.

“We purchased an implement for the excavator that has turned out to be more of a brush cutter. It’s a little too slow for regular roadside mowing,” Prouty said. “The delay in mowing is going to continue at this point, because we really do not have a piece of equipment.”

The issue with the attachment was also raised at the board’s July 6 meeting, following the April 20 approval of the mower’s purchase for $7,350, money that was taken from the Riverside Park Fund. Last year, the town spent $5,000 to contract mowing.

We had a guarded level of confidence that the piece
of equipment that we agreed to purchase could
maybe be made to work. At this point,
it’s clear that it won’t.

Taylor Prouty
Londonderry Select Board

Prouty floated the idea of purchasing another side-mounted mower, more closely resembling a brush hog, though he noted that this would not likely happen until next year in the interest of preserving funds. Resuming contracted mowing services was also discussed.

“We had a guarded level of confidence that the piece of equipment that we agreed to purchase could maybe be made to work,” he said. “At this point, it’s clear that it won’t.”

The machine may still be used by the town for brush cutting, Prouty noted, but is not sufficiently efficient for regular mowing needs.

The highway equipment reserve fund has $86,000 according to Town Treasurer Tina Labeau. While a grader and firetruck have been paid off this year, she noted that the town is also delayed in its equipment replacement schedule. The board agreed that the highway budget for the coming year will need to be closely reviewed, and Labeau noted that such work would begin soon.

“I think the mower is really going to throw a wrench in” the equipment replacement plan, Prouty said. “It’s probably not wise to spend our last bit of money going into the winter when there are repairs that are really necessary.”

The board went on to discuss final plans for improvements to Under the Mountain Road, which required no action, and approved the placement of traffic counters at Hells Peak, Winhall Hollow and Spring Hill roads. As part of a previous traffic engineering analysis, the counters had been placed along Thompsonburg, Middletown and Landgrove roads.

Beattie cautions residents on family gatherings during pandemic

Speaking about the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Emergency Management Director Kevin Beattie noted that last week Gov. Phil Scott has extended Vermont’s State of Emergency until Sept. 15.  While Covid-19 cases in Vermont have been slowly rising for the last couple of weeks, Beattie says he doesn’t see any “big cause” for concern though the numbers will continue to be monitored.

Beattie said out-of-state travel by town residents is of some concern, as are local gatherings among family and friends. He reminded all residents to observe the required two-week quarantine after travel to anywhere other than “green counties,” or those with less than 400 active Covid-19 cases per million residents. Additionally, Beattie encouraged the public to continue observing recommended safety precautions related to the pandemic.

There seems to be a misconception that if it’s
family and friends it’s less risky than with
other people, and that’s just not true.

Kevin Beattie
Emergency Management

“There seems to be a misconception that if it’s family and friends it’s less risky than with other people, and that’s just not true,” he said. “Even if it’s your family and friends, observe all social distancing and masking requirements.”

The board also worked to move forward in its attempt to place signage at the entryway of the Transfer Station, though O’Keefe is still waiting for a response from VTrans on rules regarding the state highway right-of-way. Regardless, he suggested moving forward with determining a place for the sign. After some discussion, board members also decided to pursue the placement of a 911 numbering sign at the Transfer Station, 7060 Route 100.

Other news: Winter oil, WiFi, board rules, communications district

A heating oil bid for the town offices from Cota & Cota was approved at a rate of $2.11 per gallon for fiscal 2021, and the board also approved a resolution to have the Windham Regional Commission install a WiFi booster at the Town Offices for public use.

Revised Selectboard Rules of Procedure were adopted later in the meeting, articulating that additions to the agenda must be submitted by the public, town staff, and other officials at least five days prior to the meeting, and supporting information for an agenda item must be submitted within three days of the meeting to allow time for review.

Any vote taken on an item added to the agenda after it has already been released will be ratified at a following meeting, according to the Rules of Procedure, which also details the protocol for executive sessions. The rules passed unanimously, and will be posted on the town’s website.

O’Keefe told the board that the culvert replacement taking place next week on Derry Woods Road will require  a bypass road so that traffic won’t have to be stopped. Ultimately, O’Keefe explained, this will allow for a shorter project timeframe and probably end up costing less. Londonderry Town Meeting minutes were also approved, with a delay caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Additionally, the board appointed Jeff Such, CIO of the cannabis technology company Enlighten, as an alternate representative to the Deerfield Valley Communications Union District. And finally, while a request for feedback from Vermont State Police Lt. Anthony French was discussed — alongside options for policing services in Londonderry — no action was taken as the board hopes to have French attend a future meeting for further discussion.


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About the Author: Journalist and photographer Cherise Madigan specializes in writing about outdoor recreation, the environment and travel. She has roots in Manchester and a history of reporting throughout Southern Vermont. Madigan is a graduate of Nazareth College of Rochester, earning her degree in Political Science summa cum laude in 2015.

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