School Board to Make Decision on Access Road

HAMPSTEAD – While the Facilities Committee reached consensus Monday night that the proposed access road for Hampstead Middle School should be a one lane, gravel, gated emergency exit because that is its purpose, it also said the School Board should make the decision on whether to pursue instead a two-lane, paved, 24-hour access road.
While that passes the buck to the School Board, the Facilities Committee’s recommendation is that a decision be made at the Nov. 12 Board meeting.

In order to get a warrant article for an access road ready for the 2014 Town Meeting, a decision is needed now, with no time to explore or engineer alternatives options. If the warrant article is proposed for the 2014 Town Meeting and is defeated, nothing can be done regarding the access road for another year unless the School Board invokes the safety card, which would allow construction of the road in spite of the voters’ decision.
Assistant Superintendent Roxanne Wilson did her best to pull the Facilities Committee together to make a decision, but all she was able to get was a recommendation that the School Board make a decision on the access road proposal that is currently on the table. That plan has the following components:
• Two lane paved road between HMS and Emerson Avenue that is 24 feet wide and 1,350 feet long, meeting Emerson 250 feet west of Agawam.
• The road avoids fields and intersects with the practice soccer field.
• The road crosses three wetlands.
• The culvert is extended across Emerson.
• A 45-foot-long culvert is added under the road at Emerson.
• A New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services wetlands permit is obtained.
• Sight distances are approved at 400 feet both ways.
• Estimated cost is $267,122.
School Board chairwoman Natalie Gallo, a member of the Facilities Committee, made two things clear: Anything done in terms of the proposed access road could not have a negative impact on any abutter’s property, and whatever is decided, it must be something voters would approve.
She related her experience with run-off from HMS when an addition was put in.
She also said she has received many calls and had many conversations with taxpayers, and no one wants a two-lane paved roadway. She said most agree a second emergency access is needed but they are only interested in a one lane gravel, gated emergency access.
Jorge Mesa-Tejada said the alternative plan for the access roadway provided by Paul Carideo might be a better plan but has not had any engineering. He also referenced written information he obtained from Road Agent Jon Worthen about the need for the road to be paved because of the 9 percent slope, erosion and cost of upkeep.
School Board member Jim Stewart reminded the committee that School Board member Greg Hoppa did the math at a previous meeting and pointed out that the estimated cost of maintaining the one lane gated, gravel roadway would be $2,000 per year, which Worthen affirmed, and the difference in cost between that plan and the two lane paved plan would take 90 years to balance out.
Hampstead residents Tom and Kim Lindquist visited the meeting to push for consideration of other options and asked what the rush is. They expressed concern over impinging on the ballfields and cross country trail and offered other alternatives.
HMS Principal Patti Grassbaugh said the urgency is that the Hampstead Police Department came to her after the Newtown, Conn., school shootings and expressed concern over the lack of a second access to or from the school.
The Facilities Committee determined that the purpose of the proposed roadway is to provide an emergency access roadway. The committee decided to recommend staying with using district-owned land, and while there was consensus that the access roadway should be a one lane, gated, gravel roadway, the committee stopped short of voting to recommend that.
Gallo said that whatever plan is decided should go through the Planning Board and Conservation Commission approval process, but no decision on this was made by the committee.
In other business:
The committee voted to put forward the Central School building plan as proposed by Breadloaf, with five alternatives included.
The alternatives add $597,300 to the $4,926,091 cost of the Central School project, bringing the total cost up to $5,523,391 for the proposed renovations and new construction. The alternatives the Facilities Committee approved including in the proposed package are:
• Nurse’s Office and Staff Restroom, $29,200.
• Lobby Restrooms, $45,300.
• Building-wide sprinkler system, $223,600.
• New elevator, $228,100.
• More brick veneer, $71,100.
The Middle School project for an improved entrance and work on the library, with the addition of hall windows and removal of asbestos, for a cost of $816,555, was briefly discussed.
The committee recommended the School Board decide whether to put forward one or two warrant articles on the Breadloaf proposals. If it chooses to go with one article to cover the projects at both schools, it was noted that a no vote at the election would prevent work on the projects for the year. However, if each were proposed as a separate article, voters might approve the lower cost project.
There was a brief discussion about whether taxpayers would be supportive of this, given that enrollments are flat and appear to be decreasing, but Gallo said the taxpayers must be made aware that the improvements are long overdue. She said the board needs to take the initiative to get it done despite tough economic times.
Grassbaugh insisted that the total project, all phases, not just the ones before them at the moment, should be brought before the taxpayers, to avoid being accused later of not being totally forthcoming about the overall project.
Wilson said the School Board needs to make the decision and be prepared to support it, and if it fails to pass, to do it again next year.

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