Board accepts road plan but holds off on funding plan

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FARMINGTON — Selectmen agreed with a proposed five-year road plan Tuesday, one that prioritizes the roads according to current conditions and traffic.

With Chairman Stephan Bunker and Selectman Jessica Berry absent, Selectmen Ryan Morgan, Andrew Hufnagel and Dennis Pike decided to wait for the next meeting to decide how best to propose funding the work  before bringing it to voters at the annual town meeting in March.

Using a Maine Department of Transportation road assessment, Public Works Director Denis Castonguay listed the roads most in need starting with total reconstruction work on Voter Hill Road during 2013.

Work in 2014 would include portions of Morrison Hill Road and then Porter Hill Road in 2015, Mohawk, Seminole and Shawnee drives in 2016,  and Titcomb Hill Road in 2017.

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Smaller projects, including overlay work, would begin this year on Johnston Heights. Other work is planned over the five years.

In recent years, the only funding used was state gas-tax revenue or URIP money. At one point they were $220,000 but have decreased to $170,000 a year, Town Manager Richard Davis said.  He attributed the drop to people probably driving less due to gas prices and having more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The amount is not enough because the cost of asphalt and materials increase, he told the board.

Using the $170,000 URIP funds a year, work on the Whittier Road took three years to complete because of the costs, Davis said. It’s better to do all the work in one year so the road work is the same age, he added.

With the anticipated cost of reconstruction work on Voter Hill at $271,602 an amount of $101,602 is still needed in addition to the URIP funds.

Davis presented selectmen with options for either increasing the tax rate or borrowing on a 10-year term from either the Municipal Bond Bank or a private bank. 

A tax increase on $133,000 would mean about 30 cents on the tax rate, he said. The amount completing the amount needed for Voter and overlay on Johnston Heights after URIP funds.

The URIP funds could be used to cover debt if funds are borrowed, but that would mean other major road projects could not be done till the debt comes down.

Interest rates with the bond bank are a little higher but include issuance costs, Davis said. To borrow $1,250,000 over 10 years, the bond bank interest cost is $277,000 now, while a private bank he checked with is $187,500. That’s about $65,000 in savings.

The board agreed the work needed to be done and the priorities Castonguay did were right, but Hufnagel felt paying the interest amount, enough to fund one road project, was something he needed to think more about and research.

Pike questioned whether the town could count on the amount of URIP funding. Davis said he thought the funds were pretty stable.

Listening from the audience, Nancy Porter challenged selectmen to “think outside the box” and come up with something more creative.

Taxes are high enough, she explained while questioning options for making drivers pay for the roads and for “cutting fat” from town departments.

The departments have worked to hold costs down and provide the services people want, Davis said.

According to Davis, people pay an average $400 for routine repairs on their cars from issues caused by bad roads.

People have to decide whether they want to put that amount on their vehicles or on maintaining roads, although he expected the amount for roads to be less than that, he said.

abryant@sunjournal.com

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