CHESTER – Residents of Lincoln Lane met with the selectmen once again to clarify a couple of issues surrounding their unfinished road, claiming an erroneous estimate by the town engineer or planning board led to the current financial shortfall.
Though many of the neighbors were present at the Thursday, June 6 Board of Selectmen meeting, Deborah Hesketh was the sole speaker for the group. The neighborhood has been struggling with an unfinished road and a developer, George Abdallah of Abdallah Construction, who doesn’t have any interest in bringing the road up to town standard to allow the town to take over maintenance.
The town always holds performance bonds on developments to make sure they’re completed as approved by the planning board. In the case of an absentee developer, the planning board can use the bonded money to complete the road to town standard. But in Lincoln Lane’s case, there isn’t enough money left in that bond to finish the road. There’s $7,880 left, and a price tag of $16,750 for road completion.
Why there isn’t enough money in the bond was the first point Hesketh sought to clarify. While previous discussion indicated the project cost was the victim of inflation, with cost of materials bypassing the amount set aside for the work years ago, Hesketh explained that this wasn’t the case.
The issue, Hesketh said, is that a portion of the bond was released based on incorrect data. She presented documents from town engineer Dubois and King. A document from September 2010 presents a revised bond estimate for the project because certain requirements of the subdivision plan had been met. In 2010 the person inspecting the project stated that 80 tons of wearing course pavement and 15 cubic yards of shoulder leveling gravel were needed to finish the job. The cost of these materials came to $7,880.
However, an updated document from May 1, 2013 indicates that 150 tons of wearing course and 50 cubic yards of shoulder leveling gravel are needed to complete the road. These total $16,750. Hesketh argued that a mistake on behalf of the engineer who inspected the area in 2010 caused the bond discrepancy that left the road unable to be completed.
“If it was only an inflation issue we’d only be looking at $870, but because of the amount of materials needed to complete the job, it brings us to a cost difference of $8,870. So in hindsight, Dubois and King or the planning board made a grave error in calculating what was needed to complete the job and subsequently released the bond down to $7,880. And that’s where we come up with our shortfall,” said Hesketh.
The planning board continues to look into the issue. The specifics of the discrepancy and how it occurred were unknown as the Tri-Town Times went to press. Both the planning board and selectmen have contacted town counsel to help them understand the issue and what the town’s responsibilities are with the project, if any.
One of the recent questions the planning board has pondered is whether it can take the remaining bond amount and use it to help complete the road.
Hesketh argued that a reading of the town’s site plan review regulations gives the answer.
Under the portion of those regulations that deals with the “Performance Security,” subsection 7.7.5 reads, “…The Planning Board shall not draw upon or release any security until it is in receipt of a resolution passed by a majority of the Planning Board stating the purpose and amount to be drawn or released.”
According to Hesketh that paragraph indicates that all the planning board needs to do is secure a majority vote to take the bond. The bond amount would have to be added to other funds to complete the road, however, and town officials aren’t yet sure how to get the needed funds or whether the issue is solely a private one.
Selectman chair Steph Landau thanked Hesketh for the additional information and assured her the board was following the case and doing its best to get it resolved. Landau added that his biggest concern was the potential liability that might arise, depending on how the town moves forward. He also noted his concern with setting a precedent. Hesketh said the residents hope to get the road finished before winter.