MONMOUTH — Winter road maintenance is causing concern, but town officials have a plan to address that.

A group of Monmouth residents turned up at Wednesday’s Selectboard meeting to complain about the way roads were maintained during and after the Jan. 8-9 ice storm that blanketed the region with snow and rain — and all the precipitation in between.

Norm Guimond, who lives on Old Town Road, a dirt road, felt fed up with poor road maintenance, which he described as a recurring problem. He said if it wasn’t fixed, he’d “go to the voters with a plan B” for next year. The plan, as described in a conversation among members of the Facebook group Monmouth Moms & Dads, would dissolve the Public Works Department and contract for road plowing.

Resident Hugh LeMaster didn’t see that working.

“They are an integral part of community fabric,” he said, adding that as residents themselves, public workers employees offer help to other community members with an intimacy contracted workers won’t have.

Fire Chief Dan Roy agreed, and noted that the Public Works Department communicates on the same radio frequency as firefighters, so they know of emergencies quickly. That allows them to leave their plowing routes more quickly if they need to help firefighters gain access to the scene of an emergency.

Monmouth Public Works Director Bruce Balfour told the audience that plowing roads is a time-consuming endeavor. Each driver is responsible for clearing about a 16-mile route one way, he said, which takes more than four hours to do, plowing at a speed of around 15 mph. Time adds up, too, when clearing intersections is factored in, as well as returning to refill the trucks with sand.

Just for the Jan. 8-9 storm, Balfour said, the department used 58 tons of salt and 366 yards of sand. So far this season, the town has used 266 tons of salt and 1730 yards of sand, meaning that storm accounted for 21 percent of its salt and sand usage.

During that storm, Balfour said, the town faced challenges because of miscommunication among plow drivers, lack of personnel, and not enough hot sand mixed in advance. Hot sand is a mixture of sand and salt.

Selectmen asked Balfour to identify problem areas — such as stretches of road that are covered by trees and don’t see sunlight — and plan ahead for the coming storm, which is forecast to hit the area during the weekend. Selectwoman Darlene Sanborn asked Town Manager Curt Lunt also to speak to the town’s drivers about how the work can be improved.

“You have limited resources,” Selectman Harold Jones III said. “Tell us how you need to manage them.”

Going forward, Balfour can decide whether to close the transfer station, which would allow him to put in more time plowing the roads and to wait until later to clear the station’s parking lot.

He plans to update selectmen at their next meeting, scheduled for Jan. 30, about how road clearing went in the two-week period to help them assess whether other improvements are needed.

Sanborn told residents to contact the town — the Public Works Department, the Town Office or the Police Department were all suggested — if they think a certain section of road needs attention during a storm. Once plow drivers complete the route they’re clearing, they will respond to clean the reported areas.

“Negative feedback leads to change,” Jones said.

In other news, Roy told selectmen that new Fire Department officers had been elected, and personnel would train in ice rescue next week. The chief also asked the board to host an ice skating party at the town beach from 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17.

The Monmouth School Reuse Committee will conduct a public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, at the middle school gymnasium to discuss how to reuse old school buildings.

Abigail Austin — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @AbigailAustinKJ


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