In Hartford, Facing Costs for Wall Repair, Library
Hartford selectboard members and West Hartford Library trustees break ground for the new library in front of the flood-damaged structure on July 8, 2013. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Residents await the groundbreaking ceremony for the new West Hartford Library on Monday. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Hartford Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg outlines the building plan for the West Hartford Library at the groundbreaking in front of the old library, on July 8, 2013.
Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »
White River Junction — It could cost between $1 to $3 million to repair the deteriorating retaining walls alongside Fairview Terrace and Gates Street, according to an engineering study presented at Tuesday night’s Selectboard meeting.
But the main concern among Hartford residents who attended the meeting is pedestrian safety along the traveled stretch of the road that leads to downtown White River Junction and the bus station near Airport Road.
The study, conducted by Knight Consulting Engineers, offered several options for repairs of the aging walls.
Eric Goddard, senior vice president at Knight, presented the report to 30 Hartford residents and suggested that the town stabilize the walls along upper Gates Street within the next 5 years.
Along Fairview Avenue, Goddard recommended repairing the 225 feet of concrete wall within 5 to 10 years.
Together, these streets comprised “Segment 1,” he said. He offered eight repair options for these streets that ranged from $1.3 to $2.8 million.
“Segment 2” dealt with lower Gates Street — which intersects with Church Street — and yielded three repair options projected at $460,000 to $600,000. In total, those costs could amount to $1.8 to $3.4 million.
“But we feel that the immediate action is to limit heavy traffic on upper Gates Street,” Goddard said.
At this suggestion, residents launched into a discussion on pedestrian safety around “the terraces,” a neighborhood that generates a significant amount of foot traffic despite mostly lacking sidewalks, said James Sturm, who lives on Fairview Terrace.
Sturm said students, pedestrians and teenagers walk south down Fairview Terrace to get to the bus station near the intersection at Airport Road.
Others take Gates Street to commute to downtown White River Junction on foot. But the curves in the road create dangerous blind spots, and the cracks in the pavement cause drivers to swerve around the centerline, heightening the possibility of an accident.
“It’s really scary,” Sturm said during the meeting. “It’s very narrow and at night, it’s very difficult to see people.”
Goddard nodded his head. “That’s one of the problems,” he said. “You have pedestrian traffic, but no sidewalk.”
Sturm said the north side of Fairview Terrace deadends into a woody trail.
He raised the possibility of residents using that in place of Gates Street, should the engineer study become a reality and limit traffic along that stretch of road.
He mentioned how people frequently walk and bike into downtown White River Junction, prompting selectman F.X. Flinn to interject.
“I’m glad that people are seeing White River Junction as a downtown locale,” Flinn said. “I think we need to look at the trail that was mentioned.” He urged residents to start “some kind of neighborhood association” that would more easily facilitate communication with the Selectboard.
“We’re going to need good, solid feedback,” he said.
Alan Johnson, another resident, said reduced traffic along Gates Street could be controlled by an alternate one-lane stretch with stop lights at either end.
Selectman Chuck Wooster said yesterday’s discussion “opened up some nice avenues.”
West Hartford Library
Earlier in the evening, Thomas Hazen thanked everyone for attending Monday evening’s groundbreaking for the West Hartford Library, which is being rennovated after suffering damage from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
“It was very nice, very pleasant, very relaxed. It was good to move on,” said Hazen, chairman of the West Hartford Library Trustees.
But Hartford resident Mike Morris aired his grievances about the library’s budget, which has ballooned to roughly $900,000.
“I am disappointed that we went from a $500,000 limit to nearly $900,000,” Morris said. “I want the library as part of the history, but I don’t know how we got there. Can you explain to me how we got there?”
Selectman Alex Defelice spoke after a brief moment of silence.
“If you remember, the total was $750,000,” Defelice said, referring to the bond of $500,000 in borrowed money and nearly $224,000 from insurance proceeds. “So we’re about $150,000 over that. Now, this is my feeling. Unfortunately, this board took forever to decide what we’re going to do (with library).
“What happened is, we got caught behind the curve,” he continued. “And the curve is construction companies. Two years ago, bids were pretty low. We thought were going to be able to do all these things for x number of dollars. In my mind, that’s how this thing went from $750,000 to $900,000.”
Morris replied, “that’s not how the information was ever presented.”
Wooster said he was more than happy to talk privately with Morris at a different time.
Morris left the meeting early and reviewed the source of the West Hartford Library renovations with friends.
Initially, funding stemmed from three distinct sources: $500,000 from borrowing; almost $224,000 from insurance proceeds; and roughly $85,000 in aid from Federal Emergency Management Agency for damages sustained during the 2011 flood.
In total, about $809,000. But by a 4-3 vote in late June, the Selectboard approved digging $45,000 out the town reserve for renovations.
And at the same time, the trustees agreed to pitch in with another $50,000.
To Morris, the money could have been budgeted more wisely. He questioned whether town officials were doing enough to cut costs on the project.
“There needs to be some investigation,” he said.
Zack Peterson can be reached at 603-727-3211 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article has been amended to correct an earlier error. Hartford resident Mike Morris raised questions Tuesday about whether town officials were doing enough to cut costs on the West Hartford library project but did not single out any particular person. An earlier version of this story was unclear on that point.