School Access Road to Go Back to Facilities Committee

HAMPSTEAD – The consensus of the School Board is that the proposed second access road to Hampstead Middle School should go to the voters in a warrant article, regardless of what type of road is ultimately chosen. But the type of road is still undecided, and is expected to go back to the School District Facilities Committee for review.

It was the Facilities Committee that had changed the concept of an emergency gated gravel road to a two-lane paved throughway open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
At the Tuesday, Oct. 8 school board meeting, the board took no formal vote on the road. But the consensus was that a gated gravel roadway to be used exclusively as an emergency access road was the concept favored by the townspeople, and most of the board seemed to accept that viewpoint.
An open forum at the previous board meeting on the School District’s proposal for a two-lane paved access road, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, provided the School Board and administration with considerable input. Residents, abutters, and members of town boards and safety organizations had the opportunity to voice their concerns and did so.
Assistant Superintendent Roxanne Wilson told the board at last week’s meeting that she was looking for direction regarding how it planned to proceed with the access road because of the impending budget process.
The board members all had received comments from residents and at least two points were clear: The majority of people who spoke to board members agreed an emergency access road was needed, but they favored a gated gravel emergency access road, not a two-lane paved through street. And the majority of people who spoke with board members said this is an issue taxpayers should decide on, and favored it being a warrant article.
Some of the issues with the two-lane paved throughway were:
• It would be used to avoid going through the center of town and would add to the already increased traffic flowing off West Road to avoid the stoplights on Route 111;
• Concerns over the sight line where the access roadway would enter Emerson Avenue.
• Concerns over run-off and drainage and wetland issues impacting abutters’ property and wells.
• The estimated cost of maintenance of a gravel road would take 80 years to match the extra cost of building a two-lane paved roadway, and that is before guard rails, street lights and maintenance are added to the paved roadway cost.
Many also wanted alternative designs considered, and a suggestion was made that grant money should be considered for paying for the road, as it is a safety issue.
In the end, Wilson was asked to look into grant possibilities and into whether anything should be done with regard to one of the alternatives suggested – a roughed out roadway that exists and ends up at St. Anne’s Parish. While it was suggested a resident would pursue the possibility of getting permission to use this road from the Catholic Archdiocese in Manchester, board member Jason Cipriano made it clear that the board had not authorized anyone to do that or to negotiate on behalf of the board.
Wilson said she understood the board’s emphasis to be on an emergency access but that it wanted options other than the current two-lane paved throughway design. She noted this would take time and if the board had thoughts of putting in a warrant article for this coming March, it would need to be ready by the last week in December.
Board member Greg Hoppa suggested targeting March of 2015 for the warrant article, leaving time to look at the other options. Cipriano was concerned, however, that if the issue is put off, it will continue to get put off. He favored moving forward this year.
Chairwoman Natalie Gallo said the Facilities Committee, in whose meetings the emergency access gated gravel road escalated to a two-lane paved throughway, will be meeting again. She suggested the issue be reconsidered in that venue, insisting a lot still is not known and not clear. It was suggested that members of the Conservation Commission and the Planning Board be invited to that Facilities Committee meeting for their input.
The board was asked if it would agree on the emergency access gated gravel road over the two-lane paved road and for the funding to be decided by warrant article, but no vote was taken.

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