Town agrees to accept Gaskill Road after upgrade

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ROCKINGHAM — Gaskill Road is finally on its way to becoming a town-maintained road.

The steep dirt road, which is located in the Brockways Mills section of rural Rockingham, is currently a Class 4 road, and thus is not maintained in the winter. The Rockingham Select Boad, acting on a petition from Gaskill Road residents James and Sharon Wood, agreed this week to take over the Class 4 section once the Woods and other residents bring it up to town and state road construction standards.

According to documentation associated with the request, the subdivision was first approved back in 1998, but with the proviso that the town would not take over the Class 4 road. Residents James Wood and Daniel Peloquin told the Select Board Tuesday night that it was a matter of public safety, especially during the winter months when the steep, dirt road is covered with ice. "This goes back 12 years," Wood said.

But while the Select Board gave its conditional approval — that the road be brought up to regular road specs — it refused a request by Peloquin that the town take over maintenance this winter.

Mike Hindes, the town's highway foreman, said there were other residents on Class 4 roads that don't receive winter maintenance and he warned that the town was "opening up a can of worms" if it started before the upgrade was completed and accepted.

"I don't want to maintain it," Hindes said. "But I can do it. Build a good turnaround up there," he said.

Hindes said the town crew had done some winter work on the Class 4 section in an emergency, such as spreading salt and sand during a fire.

"We've been discussing it since 2008," said Select Board member Gaetano Putignano.

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Peloquin said the residents on the road currently pay about $40,000 in real estate taxes a year, and road maintenance is the only town service they receive - or don't receive. The lower portion of Gaskill Road is Class 3, and is maintained by the town, and by most accounts is in rougher shape that the Class 4 section, which has been maintained privately by the landowners for the past 20 years.

The decision didn't come easy, since there were plenty of prior documents concerning the Gaskill Road situation to review.

Wood had made the request earlier this year, and in a letter said he was still trying to get another Gaskill Road homeowner, Carol Blackwood, to help with the construction of a new cul-de-sac and upgrading the road up to her driveway. So far, Wood said, she hasn't been interested. The new turnaround for town trucks would be just beyond the Woods' driveway, he said.

Everett Hammond, public works director, said town maintenance of the additional section of Gaskill Road would cost the town an estimated $5,000 a year to cover the costs of the additional 790 feet of road.

Before the road can be accepted, Hammond noted, the town needs to have plans that would show the proposed work, with contours. He declined to give an estimate of how much it would cost to upgrade the 790 feet to a Class 3 roadway, noting he had not seen a completed plan yet.

Before the town can formally accept the new section of road it has to go through one year of freeze and thaw cycle, Hammond noted, to make sure road construction problems had been ironed out.

Select Board Chairman Peter Golec noted that Rockingham Zoning Administrator Chuck Wise needed to have some input in the road matter. But Wood and Peloquin objected to further delay, saying they needed to have the road work done this fall, so it could go through a winter season and finally be accepted by the town next year.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or at 802 254-2311, ext. 154.


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