NEW VINEYARD — A small group of taxpayers listened to heated debate about road maintenance, repair and reconstruction costs at the annual town meeting Saturday.

When the meeting adjourned, voters had approved 44 articles and a 2014 municipal budget that increased by $18,583 to $411,684. Most of the increase was due to $17,000 needed for increased snowplowing and sanding costs.

Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Fay Adams, who recently celebrated her 80th birthday, was re-elected to a three-year term. Lindsay Johnson and Tony Nile were elected to serve on the Planning Board. Nile lost an earlier bid to defeat Road Commissioner Earl Luce Jr. Nile received nine votes to Luce’s 34 votes.

Moderator Roger Lambert guided citizens through the remainder of the discussions, which at times became heated. Tony Nile argued that Luce had mishandled the reconstruction of a section of Barker Road. He challenged selectmen to investigate previous years’ road expenditures when voters were asked for funding for summer and winter road maintenance and repair. In 2013, taxpayers approved spending $220,000 to rebuild a portion of Barker Road, he said, but he had not been able to obtain an accounting of transactions.

“Why isn’t there a breakdown of everything that was done on that road?” Nile said. “Why is it in such bad shape after six months?”

He said he has asked engineers to find causes for the 4-inch cracks in the road, and he suggested other residents inspect the newly rebuilt section to view the problems that began to appear in December.

The section from Herrick Mountain Road to Pratt Mountain Road cost less to rebuild, Luce said, because costs were done locally, rather than handing the entire job to a single contractor. That saved about $80,000 of the original $300,000 required for the project, he said. Annually, voters have raised and appropriated money to prepare for the August 2013 replacement of culverts and gravel beds. Sections of roadside were re-banked and secured against future washouts, and the surface was repaved.

“We built it the best way we could,” Luce said. “We used within 600 yards of what was proposed for gravel.”

Luce said the Town Office should have a record of every penny spent on the project, including wages paid to workers and costs for materials, if Nile or any other citizen wanted to question his expenses. Selectman Frank Forster told Nile the board is seeking professional advice from an engineer.

“What would you like us to do in the middle of winter?” he asked Nile.

Selectman Niilo Silannpaa said municipal officials will have a full report as soon as possible.

In other matters, Adams explained to voters that the Sandy River Recycling Association would close in June and that the town had to find an alternative to dispose of plastics, paper, glass and other materials that shouldn’t go into the landfill.

Residents use a transfer station, and selectmen are reviewing proposals from companies that will take their of trash and recyclables starting in July. Adams encouraged public input to attend a meeting March 27. Archie’s has made a proposal to handle the town’s solid waste and recycling needs. Adams said they want to hear from other companies to compare costs.

Voters were asked to volunteer their ideas to repair and renovate Smith Memorial Hall. The basement needs to be cleaned, Adams said, and the exterior needs siding and paint. Voters approved $9,000 to be added to the $22,000 in reserve funds, but budgeting and scheduling the work is a challenging issue.

During the meeting, Adams received one belated birthday present. State Sen. Tom Saviello and state Rep. Russell Black, both Wilton Republicans, presented her with a legislative sentiment in appreciation of her decades of service to the town.


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