WILTON – Nearly 80 residents moved swiftly through the first half of town meeting articles Monday night until they were asked to appropriate $200,000 for the Highway Reconstruction Program.

Part of that amount, $35,000, and a rolled-over sum of $28,931, would be used to complete Lake Road and Old Jay Street while the remaining $165,000 would be used for a road project on Temple Road.

Following a lengthy discussion, the article was approved. But Selectman Paul Gooch suggested that if the people on outer Temple Road, the portion above Orchard Drive from the top of the hill to Morrison Hill Road, did not want the road paved, they should come to the board and let them know soon, he said.

One Temple Road resident wanted to amend the article and reduce the amount appropriated to $55,000 because he felt the project would turn a nice rural road into a speedway. He suggested appropriating the $35,000 for the Lake Road/Old Jay Street repairs, and $20,000 to patch and repair Temple Road.

Temple Road is one of many in the town’s 55 miles of road to maintain and pave, Highway Superintendent John Welch said.

“It’s a tough job to decide which ones get addressed. The current amount ($200,000) shouldn’t be changed,” he said, suggesting other roads could be done.

The town created the Highway Reconstruction Program in the late 1980s as a five-year crash program for road maintenance, Conrad Heeschen said. Five years didn’t do it.

Money no longer buys the same amount of reconstruction as it did 20 years ago, now it’s mostly just paving and overlays, he said.

“Maybe it’s time to let some roads revert to dirt again,” Heeschen said.

The cost of pavement is still up, even though oil prices have gone down, Gooch told residents. To cover the list of roads needing repairs, more than $1 million would be needed, he said. It would be shortsighted to cut the $200,000 and not address other road projects, he said.

There is a life expectancy for a road, and to go past it can triple the cost of repair, said resident Mike Wells. Wells suggested leaving it up to Welch’s discretion as to which roads need to be done.

Residents voted down the first amendment, then newly elected Selectman Tom Saviello suggested raising the $200,000 and said that selectmen would hold a public hearing to prioritize the use of the monies.

Paving time is now, Paul Montague reminded residents.

Selectman Irv Faunce said the board and Welch discussed the roads last fall, drove over them and prioritized a list. He was against going back through the process. The meetings were held in public. Faunce urged residents to respect the judgment of Welch. A delay in paving for the town would not serve people well, he said.

Residents then voted down the second amendment and approved raising and appropriating $200,000 as requested.

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