Resurface Lower Main, race committee says

 

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

The 4 on the Fourth Race Committee wants Bridgton Selectmen to repave the section of Lower Main Street where the race begins, but Selectmen don’t want to give the problem a temporary solution.

A layer of hot top would cost around $50,000, but to do the job right, with new sidewalks, culverts and such, would cost around a half million dollars, Public Works Director Jim Kidder said Tuesday.

“It needs new sidewalks with curbing, and it’s too high in some places, too low in other places,” Kidder said. “If we’re going to do it, do it right.” As part of the upcoming recommendations he’ll be making for the five-year Capital Improvement Plan, Kidder said he’d like to provide some increased parking and new manholes. “If we just put in hot top, we’re wasting money.”

Kidder said the race committee could consider rerouting the start of the July 4 race if they cannot see any other option.

In a letter to Selectman Chairman Bernie King, Race Director Jim Cossey said that for the last several years the committee has limited the number of runners to 2,100, “because of safety concerns associated with the confined nature of the first quarter mile of the race course,” extending from Food City to Cross Street.

“The issue is the density of runners on that section of the course, as well as the condition of that portion of Main Street,” Cossey wrote.

The race will celebrate its 40th year in 2016, and even though the resurfacing is justifiable in any case, Cossey said “It would be particularly important for the impression it would make for the runners and their supporters, as well as non-race-related visitors to Bridgton.” He noted that Food City repainted its building this year, lending impetus for the town to give more attention to that long-neglected section of Main Street than its usual practice of cleaning it up each year just prior to the race.

There’s no money left in the roads account, said Town Manager Bob Peabody, but Lower Main Street is part of the town’s Streetscape Plan for which a study is being commissioned. He said the town could use Community Development Block Grant funding in the future.

Selectman Ken Murphy, who has long advocated for Lower Main Street improvements, said pedestrians don’t use the sidewalks because they’re so broken up “people trip over them. It’s just disgusting.”

Murphy added that a proper makeover of the street section might well stimulate homeowners who live along Lower Main Street to improve the appearance of their homes as well.

The consensus of the board was to wait for development of the Capital Improvement Plan. In that regard, Selectman Bob McHatton suggested the board let Peabody go ahead and produce the document after receiving department head recommendations, since it appears there is not enough interest among residents in serving on a Capital Improvement Committee. Legal ads and postings seeking applications for service on the committee have generated only a few responses.

McHatton pointed out that Peabody was hired, in part, because of his strong experience in managing capital improvement efforts in other towns.

Peabody said he has distributed copies of the narrative he wrote outlining the process for creating a five-year Capital Improvement Plan, but no actual projects have been identified or prioritized as of yet because the board was waiting for a Capital Improvement Committee to be created. He suggested that the selectmen could act as a reviewing body, or it could simply be left up to town staff, with the board having final say.

Peabody stressed that some kind of a committee, possibly a hybridized form, needs to be in place because someone needs to look annually at the projects listed and make changes in individual project rankings as conditions warrant.

Urgent needs cannot always be foreseen a year ahead, he said. For example, he said, Lower Main Street could be seen as urgent and replace another project that can more easily wait a few more years.

The board reached consensus to take Cossey’s request under advisement and revisit the idea when the budget review begins and CDBG funding decisions are made next year.

 

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