by Doug McClure
WOLCOTT – Ongoing discussions between the Wolcott Road Crew and Select Board about roads and equipment dominated the board’s nearly two-hour meeting Wednesday, October 21. Vice Chair Linda Martin gave an update on the status of federal assistance requested by the town to pay for repairs caused by last year’s Halloween storm. Road Foreman Dillan Cafferky provided an update on the new truck the board authorized to be ordered, and there was news about Truck 13. Lucien Gravel discussed with the board potential extra funding for the town’s highways.
Wolcott is still contending with damage caused by last year’s Halloween storm. Aid from the federal government, including FEMA, is in process but is moving slowly, said Martin and Lucien Gravel, who are working with the federal government to obtain the funding. Martin said the federal government “keeps throwing more stuff at us” and the town now needs to complete paperwork usually handled in-house by federal agencies.
Still unresolved is the issue of a destroyed box culvert off Brook Road. Describing the damage, Lucien Gravel said, “the bottom is completely gone, the stone’s beat it to hell, ripped the bottom right out of it.” Lucien Gravel said the road crew has “filled it two or three times because the material just keeps washing away.” He said he was “a little leery” of the culvert’s chances of making it through the winter. He said buttressing the structure with large, solid steel plates might keep it from collapsing, but “besides that, there isn’t much we can do.” The cost of replacing the culvert is in the hundreds of thousands, Martin said. While federal aid would be forthcoming, the amount of aid the town would receive and when they would receive it is not known. Lucien Gravel said that due to upgraded hydraulic and other standards, replacing the culvert with a lesser structure would not meet state requirements.
Board member Kurt Klein asked, “At some point, the town’s going to get reimbursed from [the federal government], right?” Martin responded that, providing work is underway by April, 100% of the costs would be reimbursed. After April, a reduced percentage would be reimbursed, depending on which agency is reimbursing the town. Klein asked if the town would “have to borrow more” for the projects, and Martin responded, “We have no sense of when reimbursement might happen.” Klein called the matter “discouraging.”
Lucien Gravel said while he and Martin continue filling out paperwork and responding to government requests, the town should obtain easements and permissions from private property owners whose land will be affected by the new structure. It was unclear whether legal fees for the agreements would be covered by federal reimbursements. Martin said he did not think so. Lucien Gravel suggested the town “get our ducks in order,” and contact the town’s attorney to draft the agreements.
When the select board decided in mid-June not to purchase a new plow truck and to instead repair Truck 13, Lucien Gravel told the board he had no confidence the truck would survive the winter. With approximately $13,000 spent on repairs since then, the board asked Cafferky for an update on Truck 13. Cafferky said the news was “not good” and Truck 13 “needs a water pump, it needs an elbow, it’s leaking coolant.” He added the truck’s plow frame, which had been fixed earlier that day, “had a big crack on it.” Klein asked, “We just put how much into this truck?” Cafferky described the new round of repairs as “overlooked items,” and Chair Gravel said, “Hopefully that’s the last gremlins in there.”
In other truck-related updates, Cafferky said he ordered the new plow truck the same day the board authorized it and expected its arrival in three or four weeks. He had not yet received an estimated time of arrival on the grader, but said he was in frequent contact with the supplier and expected it “sometime over the winter.” He said a mobile solar speed sign was being loaned to the department by the state and should be up and running this week. Lucien Gravel said he will investigate the status of the other, damaged solar sign.
Lucien Gravel presented paperwork to the board to commit the town to a grant for $11,300 for bringing together previously identified connecting road segments. The town match would be 20%, but could be “in kind,” with the town using its own equipment and crew for the project in lieu of making a cash contribution. Lucien Gravel said even if the full cash amount of approximately $2,000 was needed, the town had money set aside for this type of work. Chair Gravel described the amount as “a drop in the bucket” compared to other highway spending, and Klein responded “if we keep putting drops in the bucket…” Lucien Gravel said the only reason the town didn’t apply for the grant last year was “because no one filled out the forms,” but this year “we made sure” to do so. Klein was less enthusiastic about the grant but said he would go along with the wishes of the board.
Lucien Gravel said work completed on several town highway permits “never got checked off.” Some permits were “three to four years old,” he said. Lucien Gravel and Cafferky agreed to take on the task of checking the permits.