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Staff Writer

PEPPERELL — “We have very few questions for all your departments. However, we have some for highway,” Finance Committee Chairman Christopher DeSimone told DPW Director Robert Lee last week.

The FinCom is taking information prior to issuing budget recommendations for town meeting.

In the ensuring conversation, Highway Superintendent Peter Shattuck suggested for the first time that town money may have to be placed into the road repair account because of shrinking state aid dollars.

With Chapter 90 road aid dwindling from the $400,000 of a few years ago to just $109,000 last year, Shattuck feels the time has come to put $75,000 to $100,000 per year — “not tomorrow or next week” — into a street resurfacing account. The price of asphalt has risen this year from $37.30 per ton to $52, he said, and it does not help to just “skim coat” town roads because that won’t last.

“We are building our own roads, with a huge savings,” he said.

FinCom member Jeffrey Teller suggested “classifying roads” according to their need for repair.

Shattuck said he currently walks all the roads to see which need work the most and stores that information mentally, although he could work on a more formal record-keeping system.

Shattucksaid he also meets with the Water and Sewer departments monthly to find out what plans are being made for road openings.

“Where water and sewer are going in, I avoid paving,” he said. “We should, and do, know when water mains break. They are all checked before we pave. We call the gas company before we pave.”

Teller asked if dirt roads would be eventually paved and Lee said “local resistance” has killed such plans in the past.

“If someone says ‘no’ to giving us land to realign a road, we aren’t going to court over it,” Lee remarked.

Mandatory replacement of traffic control signs with larger ones — at $55 to $73 each — in about 250 locations has added to the budget request. Lee said he plans to replace signs on Routes 119 and 113, on South Road, and at every “T” intersection this year.

Shattuck explained that a note reading “need more funds” in the margin of his budget referred to paying to have heavy vehicle inspections done in town rather than driving all the vehicles to Leominster.

Another new $1,000 expense is actually half of the $2,000 beaver control account, shifted out in order to pay for mandatory random drug testing of commercial drivers. More money was shifted around to pay for flu shots which, town accountant Theresa Walsh explained, will no longer be funded by the Board of Health.

Shattuck reported that the last significant storm cost the town $7,000 in treatment of roads. He said savings are “doing great” compared to the $75,000 spent last year by this time, although winter isn’t over yet.

The remote security camera at the transfer station and the vehicle weight scale installed last year are working “tremendously well,” Shattuck said. Arguments about the cost of dumping are few and money taken in is now dropped off at town hall.

About 1,600 to 1,900 transfer station stickers have been sold. More mixed-paper bins must be added because people are recycling so well, Shattuck said. Lee said that effort is doubly important because Pepperell is now rated as one of the recycling communities whose trash is no longer subject to inspection. FinCom member Stephanie Cronin wondered if the transfer station could be opened to non-residents. ”

Pepperell should be a “good neighbor,” Shattuck said, in having Brookline and Hollis, N.H., residents support their own recycling facilities. All abutting towns handle their own trash, he said.

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