Barre Town board gives green light to paving of shortcut
BARRE TOWN — Blacktop could be coming soon to a well-traveled gravel road, but the Select Board isn’t yet ready to let its animal control officer drive a town-owned pickup truck there — or anywhere.
On a night when they also approved a plan to tweak the midweek schedule at a privately run recycling depot, board members balked at a proposal to recycle a town truck for animal control purposes, while agreeing to pursue a plan to pave West Road.
According to Town Manager Carl Rogers, the half-mile stretch of gravel road is part of a popular shortcut between the upper section of Route 63 in South Barre and Route 14 in Williamstown.
The longer section of what has become for many Berlin-bound motorists a Route 14 bypass is located in Williamstown, and Rogers said officials there are submitting a companion application to pave Falls Bridge Road, which runs from the south end of West Road to Route 14.
In recent years, Rogers said, West Road has required increased attention from the town’s public works crew due to the beating it takes from out-of-town traffic. Paving the Class 2 road should solve that problem, he said, urging the board to apply for a state grant that would cover 80 percent of the cost.
The total cost of the project in Barre Town is estimated to be $124,800, and the town’s 20 percent share would be just under $25,000. Money to cover the expense is included in the yet-to-be-finalized highway fund budget that voters will be asked to approve in May.
Pursuing the grant to pave West Road was an easy decision for a board that received competing recommendations about what to do with a 2007 pickup that is on the verge of being replaced.
In what he pitched as a way to potentially cut costs, Rogers suggested assigning the old truck to Justin Pickel, the town’s animal control officer, instead of continuing to reimburse him at a rate of 56.5 cents a mile for using his personal vehicle.
According to Rogers, through the first eight months of this fiscal year that arrangement has translated into Pickel being reimbursed $12,586 for responding to animal complaints in Barre Town and four neighboring communities that contract with the town for his services. Although only $2,666 of that amount can be traced to Barre Town cases — Pickel also serves Barre, Berlin, Orange and Williamstown — Rogers said the town might be better off assigning him a work vehicle and paying for fuel, insurance and related expenses.
Based on the current price of gas, Rogers projected the cost of that arrangement would be roughly $10,000 a year — nearly $9,000 less than Pickel is on pace to be paid in mileage reimbursement during the fiscal year that ends June 30.
However, board members had a competing recommendation that they sell the truck, which has amassed a host of problems along with more than 117,500 miles. Ultimately they said they needed more information from the town’s mechanic and Pickel before making a decision.
Although board members weren’t necessarily opposed to the concept Rogers advanced, some wondered whether it might be more prudent to wait a year or so and reuse the next vehicle that is replaced for the police department.
In other business this week the board approved a scheduling change that Earth Waste & Metal proposed for the recycling depot it operates on town-owned land in Wilson Industrial Park. With the board’s blessing, the company plans to open the depot on Wednesdays instead of Tuesdays starting April 9. Hours will be extended by 30 minutes at the end of the day, and the new 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule will also apply on Saturdays.
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