FARMINGTON — The challenges of the ice buildup on town roads were discussed Tuesday by the selectmen.

The board held a discussion with Public Works Director Denis Castonguay and foreman James Kiernan about the department’s response to road conditions. A few residents also voiced their frustrations.

The department has used 4,000 yards of sand and about 645 tons of salt, Castonguay said.

“This last storm, we used 122.5 tons of salt, the equivalent of four tractor-trailer loads of salt,” he said. Due to low road temperatures, “we have to be patient to get it to work.”

Two crews have been working nights and days.

“The crew is tired. The equipment is tired,” Castonguay said.

This past weekend, three trucks were down and those that were out were sliding down hills, he said.

“Roads froze so quickly, we couldn’t plow it,” he said. “There was a downpour, then, within three minutes, it was frozen. Chained trucks found it hard to get up hills.”

It’s been an unusual year, challenging road departments around the state, Town Manager Richard Davis said.

Board members and residents questioned Castonguay about public safety and the conditions of several roads, sidewalks and clearing catch basins.

Several roads have icy shoulders and ruts that pull vehicles. Some of those roads are near schools where the most inexperienced drivers travel, Michael Bolduc said. He mentioned children walking to Mt. Blue Middle Street and young drivers on Whittier Road heading for Mt. Blue High School.

Route 43 from Madore’s Market to the turn to Morrison Hill and from there to Titcomb Moutain ski slope are also difficult, he said.

Kevin Madore asked about low salt coverage by his store at the corner of Route 43 and Town Farm Road.

Selectmen Ryan Morgan and Andrew Hufnagel said they were concerned about conditions on the Town Farm Road and why some roads receive more or less salt and sand than others.

“Every road has its own character,” Kiernan said. “We can’t treat any two roads the same.”

Temperatures didn’t rise above 30 degrees in Farmington and the road temperatures were below zero. They are still only at about 10 degrees, Castonguay said.  The road needs to be up above 25 degrees for the salt to work.

The other major factor affecting road plowing is the infrastructure, he said. The roads are out of shape, causing the plow to lose contact with the road and affecting its ability to clear it.

Last week, during a budget presentation for the Public Works Department, selectmen voiced concerns about a decrease in the salt and sand line request from $100,000 in 2013 to $90,000. The board increased the request due to public safety concerns.

“I’m hearing you need more people,” Selectman Morgan told Castonguay on Tuesday about a lack of response from four part-time workers when called. “There’s a lot of frustration.”

Other concerns were raised about sidewalks and freezing around catch basins causing huge puddles. 

“I’m hearing you say it’s an unusual winter with several storms, rain and ice” resident Dennis O’Neil said. “I think (Public Works) is doing a hell of a job keeping up with conditions.

“How many of us have dry, clear driveways and walkways?” he asked.

The board agreed to hold an executive session at their next meeting to discuss a personnel issue within the department.

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