Road group to aid board

Committee to advise on highway department

LYNDEBOROUGH – The Highway Department is the most expensive department in town, and one on which all other services depend.

“If the roads aren’t plowed, nobody moves,” Selectman Fred Douglas told a group of volunteers for a new committee on Wednesday, March 29.

But, he and the other selectmen added, “We don’t have the expertise.”

To help them, they have formed a Highway Department Advisory Committee. That group of men with various backgrounds in engineering and road work met for the first time Wednesday, March 29, to learn what would be expected of them and what the selectmen hope to accomplish.

The town had a similar committee some years ago, and former road agent Clayton Brown was also a member of that one. Other members are Scott Brown, Mark Chamberlain, Bob Goding, Dennis Slocumb and Ray Humphries. Road agent Kent Perry is an ex-officio member.

Town Administrator Russ Boland provided a packet of information “as a starting point of the discussion,” including a copy of the Capital Improvements Plan for the purchase of future equipment, one area for the committee to look into, as well as the paving plan and the schedule for installation of new guardrails.

“Adjustments were made to the plans to cover costs of the Mountain Road project,” Chairman Lee Mayhew said, because selectmen had promised that project wouldn’t affect the tax rate. But that has caused the selectmen to consider used vehicles rather than new, renting instead of buying, and a new maintenance schedule – all of which the new committee with review.

“We’re asking you to look into what could be done and how to do it,” Mayhew said.

“We’ve been trying to do what is right,” Douglas said, “streamline efforts and get the biggest bang for our buck.”

He described changes being made in routine maintenance, which has become much more complex with new engines and accessories, and the town is now having it done by the vendors.

“We need knowledge to maintain the equipment,” Douglas said, “and decided to have (the company) do it. It’s a cost-effective issue.”

Douglas also mentioned keeping vehicles longer and making better use of them.

“Why do we have two backhoes?” he said. “Why not a payloader? We are looking at replacing one of them.”

Selectman Mark Schultz said they had a “lot of discussion with Russ and Kent, and it makes sense to have a group such as you to make some decisions We expect to get a lot of good information.

“We relied heavily on engineers on the Mountain Road, but don’t expect other roads to need as much. We need some common sense, and you fellows (to help us get) a good return on our money. We have a lot of roads and a lot of things that need to be done over the next years.”

Other areas for the committee to look at include brush cutting, culvert cleaning, grading of dirt roads, adding calcium to gravel roads for dust control, and use of the smaller truck for plowing parking lots and driveways only.

Committee members said they thought selectmen should call and chair the meetings, and agreed to meet on an upcoming Monday, after they had had a chance to read all of the materials provided.