BELGRADE — More than 50 people turned out to offer opinions on when, how and whether the state should rebuild Route 27 where it passes through Belgrade Lakes village.
However, some members of the Board of Selectpersons seemed taken aback when Department of Transportation personnel told them they could opt for only a resurfacing rather than full reconstructing of Main Street between the West Road intersection and the bridge over Mill Stream.
At the close of a 90-minute public hearing, the board voted 5-0 to ask the state that the proposed road reconstruction be given “the highest priority” and included in the department’s 2015-16 Capital Work Plan.
The board recommended the work be done in the spring until Memorial Day weekend Labor Day and then resume after Labor Day, and it requested two crews to work on the project to “reduce the hardship on the Village District businesses.”
The town has committed to spending $45,000 to widen the road in places to create legal parking and $10,200 for new sidewalks between St. Helena Catholic Church and the Union Church in conjunction with the state work.
At the hearing, Jan Partridge, a Belgrade resident and business owner, was decidedly against any road work at all. “People come to Belgrade because they like a small quaint village,” she said, adding that any road improvement would encourage speeding and imperil pedestrians, particularly children.
However, she also said she vehemently opposes installation of any traffic bumps or speed tables, saying she would remove them herself.
Board member Melanie Jewell cited work done on Townsend Road in Augusta and the traffic-calming effect of trees in the median.
Gail Rizzo, president of Belgrade Lakes Association, asked whether the bridge at one end of the village was part of the project.
Duane Scott, of the DOT’s Bureau of Planning, said it was not.
“From the state’s position, we could just do a resurfacing,” Scott said, a statement echoed by another transportation department planner, Marty Rooney.
Scott also noted the plans calling for some sidewalk work were the product of the town’s own streetscape committee. “We’re not forcing sidewalks on you as a community.”
He said reconstruction yields a longer road life than resurfacing.
Selectman Ernest Rice told the meeting attendees he supports the road reconstruction. “It’s very critical to do the work. It’s inevitable what is happening. Much as I don’t like to see it, Augusta is coming our way.”
Selectman Daniel Newman said the road reconstruction, with some attendant sidewalks, plantings and lighting enhancements, would improve the village and attract more visitors.
“Belgrade doesn’t have a monopoly on being quaint,” he said.
The meeting was an exchange of information as well, as some longtime residents answered questions posed by those who moved to the town more recently.
A couple of Rome residents too made a pitch in favor of full reconstruction after some people appeared to lean toward resurfacing.
“I think you’re missing a wonderful opportunity,” said Meg Lane of Rome, who works for the state Department of Transportation. “The community has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enhance the village and make it even more quaint with a lot of charming, wonderful enhancements.”
Dan Robbins, also of Rome, said he formerly worked for the state transportation department as well and knows resurfacing is not the answer. “The road does not have a base under it,” he said. “You’ll be facing the same issues you’re facing now. From the state’s perspective this is a high priority road. It connects two major service centers, Farmington and Augusta.
Marcel Schnee, owner of Dockside Physical Therapy on Main Street in Belgrade, said he favors construction before and after the village’s heavy tourist season between Memorial Day and Labor Day. He said he also would be opposed to work being done at night.
The construction work is not happening in the near future and has yet to be funded.
“Before we move forward, we need to let people know there are impacts.” Rooney said, “We will try to minimize the impacts. You can’t do a project of this size without making an impact.”
He estimated that the work could be done at the earliest in 2016.
Timing of the construction work is critical to business and property owners in the village, which is on an isthmus between Long Pond and Great Pond and attracts thousands of summer visitors.
While there is no money budgeted for construction, preliminary planning work produced construction estimates of about $1.75 million, transportation officials said. Federal and state money would cover the full-depth road reconstruction and the cost for any local options, and the town would pay 20 percent of the cost for any elements, including new sidewalks and parking.