HARTFORD — The lack of a report from Road Commissioner Jeremy Johnson for work done on Gurney Hill Road and questions about his qualifications for the job stirred controversy at Thursday night’s selectmen meeting.

Before road reports were given, Road Committee member Dan Maddox asked selectmen to consider an executive session to discuss a personnel issue. After the 30-minute closed-door session, Board Chairman Lee Holman said there would be no action taken.

The five-member Road Committee was appointed to develop a prioritized list of road projects and a schedule for completing them. Among projects scheduled for this summer is rebuilding and paving Gurney Hill Road.

Town policy requires that bids be solicited for jobs costing more than $5,000. Selectmen voted June 19 to get estimates for the work, but rescinded that vote July 3.

They also voted at that time to have Johnson do the pre-paving work and submit a report of what had been done, along with an estimate to finish it.

So far, there has been no report, and officials said last month that $40,000 to $50,000 more will probably be needed.

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At Thursday night’s meeting, Maddox asked Johnson what his qualifications are to design the Gurney Hill Road rebuild.

“Experience,” Johnson said.

“You are almost finished preparing Gurney Hill for paving, but you aren’t qualified,” Maddox told him.

“I”m capable of building roads,” Johnson said, citing successful projects he’d done.

Ordinance Committee member Daryl Boness asked selectmen if they had anything in writing from Johhson on plans and procedures for the work.

“No,” Holman said.

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“The town is spending nearly $13,000 with no written design or contract,” Boness said. “That appears to be pretty poor business practice. It leaves the town liable.”

“Gurney Hill is a work in progress,” said Road Committee Chairman Harley Swanson, a town road employee. “We are not ready to give anything to (paving) bidders. I’ve been working on the project a couple of weeks, and I can say the money is wisely spent. They are doing a good job.”

Johnson, showing the board an engineer’s report for work for Staples Hill in Canton, said, “I couldn’t write that much paperwork.”

One person in the audience told Johnson, “You are capable of building roads and overseeing the job. You have the capacity to convey this information in writing.”

“We need written documents,” Holman said.

“The town is not following the guidance of ordinances,” Boness said.

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The board considered putting the paving out to bid.

“Just hold up on the bidding and let Johnson do what needs to be done,” said Road Committee member Bim McNeil. 

Maddox said selectmen and the Bid and Road committees will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 12, to further discuss the list of road projects. The Bid Committee will formulate the bid packages.

The Road and Bid committees will also meet Tuesday, Aug. 19.

Selectmen agreed to a stipend of $10 an hour for a Planning Board secretary.

They also signed the Buckfield Fire Services contract for an annual fee of $2,127.50.


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