Sunderland board digs in on road conditions

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SUNDERLAND — The town Selectboard on Monday reviewed the progress of a consultant's work on identifying erosion and stormwater impacts from the town's 30 linear miles of road.

The work, funded by a state "better roads" grant matched by the town, is being conducted by consultant Evan Fitzgerald of Colchester. His firm, Fitzgerald Environmental Associates, is designing a stormwater master plan for the town.

On Monday, road foreman Marc Johnson presented a map created by Fitzgerald, breaking the town's roads into 364 segments where they cross rivers and streams, pass over culverts, or run near wetlands. Of those segments, 48 percent meet state standards for stormwater runoff, 39 percent partially meet standards, and 13 percent do not meet standards, Johnson told the board. Of the segments that need work, the issues range from ditches that need to be cleaned and lined with stone to debris from road grading building up along the side of the road, Johnson said — a condition known as "grade berm." That's inevitable when caring for dirt and gravel roads, Johnson said, noting that the typical road loses 2 to 4 inches of gravel a year from grading alone.

The question the town will now consider is in what order to complete work needing attention, given that it has until 2023 to do so under the terms of the grant. Johnson noted that some of the work required to keep roads in compliance is continual, in the same way that tree branches need to be trimmed regularly.

The board also discussed correspondence from Alden Road residents who are interested in dissolving their homeowner association and having the town take care of the road.

"It's in a bad state and I understand why the homeowners are reaching out," chairman Mark Hyde said.

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But the first problem with that request, town clerk Rose Keough said, is that the paperwork establishing the homeowner association appears to be missing. A search of planning board records is not turning up a reference to a homeowners association for Alden Road, she said.

The second problem is that the expense of assuming and upgrading the road would prove prohibitive, and set a precedent for other private roads

Board member Melanie Virgilio asked if there's a point where the town would consider taking over a road that has fallen into disrepair. Other board members answered that's unlikely, because of the expense and the precedent it would set.

"We're probably talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring [Alden Road] up to standard at a bare minimum," Hyde said. "We have roads we can't afford to pave."

"It would be a money pit if the town took [Alden Road] over," board member Steven Bendix added.

The board also decided to pursue Sunderland Elementary School as the site for the 2019 Town Meeting. There had been some discussion of using Town Hall instead. But members said the turnout this past Election Day showed Town Hall lacks adequate parking for large groups.

The meeting was also visited by a pair of newly elected state representatives. David Durfee of Shaftsbury and Kathleen James of Manchester, who each represent a portion of Sunderland's 985 residents, held a meet and greet with constituents an hour before the meeting began. Durfee, a Democrat from Shaftsbury, was elected to succeed Alice Miller in the Bennington-3 district. James, a Democrat and Manchester resident, finished first in a three-way runoff for the Bennington-4 district's two seats, with Rep. Cynthia Browning of Arlington second and Rep. Brian Keefe of Manchester third.


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