TOWNSEND -- The Capital Planning Committee debated Thursday the necessity of hiring an outside consultant to do a comprehensive survey of the condition of Townsend's roads.
The discussion followed a joint meeting Sept. 17 between the Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee and Capital Planning Committee in which Highway Superintendent Ed Kukkula suggested hiring a consultant to develop a pavement management plan.
The plan would include a complete description of the condition of all of Townsend's roads, as well as recommendations about how to repair them.
Although a price estimate for the plan had not been obtained, Town Administrator Andrew Sheehan estimated cost at $25,000 to $35,000.
Some Capital Planning Committee members said they were concerned that the money would be wasted if officials don't follow through with promises to fund road maintenance in the future.
Townsend has paid for several outside studies on other subjects in the past without utilizing them, said member Carolyn Smart.
"I am totally for the plan. I just fear that we're not going to follow through on it because of our past," Smart said.
Smart would support hiring a consultant if funding road repairs was a top priority.
"If we can stay united in the priority, it's going to make me feel a lot better about spending the $25,000 or $30,000," Smart said.
The outside consultant would help lay out all of the work that needs to be done in a way that would get people's attention, member Rick Oakley said.
"Everything would be spelled out for us with fresh eyes," he said.
Others on the committee, including member Roger Rapoza, suggested the money for the consultant, which could come out of the limited Chapter 90 road repair funding that the town received this year, would be better spent on repairing the roads themselves.
"The amount of crack-sealing you could do for $30,000 could save what we have now," Rapoza said.
He would prefer the work to be done in-house, but said Kukkula would need to be able to spend less time on clerical work in order to get it done.
Hiring a secretary, a position that was cut years ago, would enable Kukkula to be able to devote time to putting together a similar study, he said.
"We need to free Ed up and get him back on the roads where he belongs," Rapoza said.
If the town were to hire a consultant, member Andrea Wood said, it should be a local one who understands the needs of a small town. She suggested surveying the roads in stages, and not all at once.
The committee also discussed ways of raising money for road repair. At Tuesday's joint meeting, participants discussed the possibility of a debt exclusion or a Proposition 2 1/2 override to provide the money.
Smart said Thursday that the town could borrow money to fix the roads.
"That would be a way to get the lump sum that they really wanted without asking taxpayers to raise taxes," Smart said.
"But we've got to clean up our bond rating and the financial mess we're in before we can go out and ask for money" she said.
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