Paris 10-year road plan ready for action

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PARIS — After months of work, the town has a 10-year plan for road repair that doesn’t require borrowing money.

Town Manager Phil Tarr has completed a plan using data compiled by the Highway Department and software from the state. The plan lays a road map for repairs into 2022, with about $500,000 in repair costs per year.

Tarr said he hopes the new plan will be easier to sell to Paris voters than a more rushed idea that came up last year to borrow as much as $4 million. That led to arguments and concerns about paying  interest.

“Everybody hated it,” Tarr said of the plan to borrow $4 million. The board canceled a planned special town meeting on roads and asked Tarr to set a plan for the town meeting in June.

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Using a software program called the Road Service Maintenance System, the highway department gathered data on conditions on every road in Paris, divided into half-mile segments. The program took the traffic rate on each road into account.

The idea was to take what Tarr thought the town could afford, about $500,000 a year, and divide the work up over the next 10 years. “We wanted to try to get something done on as many of the bad roads as we can,” Tarr said. That way, he said, people can see progress in areas across town and not feel as though their neighborhoods are being neglected.

For example, the plan calls for 2012 work on Elm Hill Road, Paris Hill Road, Brett Hill Road, Twitchell Road, Lincoln Street, Cobble Hill Road and Alpine Street. Some roads will see ditching work and others will be paved.

Work on Ryerson Hill Road, infamous for its rough conditions, would begin in 2013 with ditching and drainage.

Tarr said he has presented the plan to the Road Committee, Budget Committee and the Board of Selectmen and it was well received by all.

At the Feb. 13 board meeting, Selectman Ted Kurtz suggested that borrowing the full cost of the 10-year project might be cheaper, as a 3 percent interest rate would probably be less expensive than the rising cost of road work over the next 10 years.

That’s probably true, Tarr said Wednesday, but most residents would rather pay for work than interest if their taxes increase. “It isn’t my recommendation,” he said.

“Economically, Ted’s idea makes sense,” he said. Politically, however, it would be harder to sell.

The Road Committee is looking over the plan now. Tarr said it would be hard to alter it much, as the work is made to progress, with base paving one year laying the foundation for surface paving the same road the following year.

If the town isn’t interested in paying $500,000 per year, the work could be extended more than 10 years, he said.

Highway Foreman Dan Nowell said the new plan is simple and easy for residents to understand. “It’s black and white,” he said.

Nowell said he and Tarr will look into whether work could be done for less by contractors, the Highway Department or a combination of both. The Highway Department will continue maintenance on roads not on the plan. “We’ve still got to do the best we can to make them safe to travel on,” Nowell said.

According to Nowell, the plan could change slightly as the Highway Department makes yearly checks of Paris road conditions. Some roads may receive higher priorities if conditions deteriorate.

The road plan has even drawn accolades from outside of Paris. Don Rahmlow, the programmer who created the road software, is using it as an example of the program’s capabilities.

“When you write software, you don’t really know how it’s going to be used,” Rahmlow said. “You have your own ideas of how you would use it. But actually seeing it used by someone else and having it be successful and having them come up with creative ways to use it is a special thrill.”

The test now is whether the Road Committee will agree with the plan’s priorities and whether the Budget Committee will agree to the $500,000 per year price tag.

The plan is available at the Paris Town Office for viewing.

treaves@sunjournal.com

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