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Voters to Decide on $5 Million for Pepper St. Improvements

Town Council members unanimously agreed to approve a contract with BL Companies for a State project to reconstruct Pepper Street Monday night, then set a Town Meeting date for residents to vote on a $5,050,000 bond on Jan. 27 in the Council Chambers of Monroe Town Hall at 7 p.m.

The project includes better pavement management and safety improvements for the road and a portion of the Rail Trail. The federal government will fund 80 percent of it with Monroe and the State each pitching in 10 percent of the cost.

While the town would bond for the entire cost of the project, Councilman Tony Unger said it will be reimbursed as the project moves along.

Though the Town Council vote was unanimous, Councilwoman Dee Dee Martin expressed concern over the fact that the vote was taken after she had just gotten a copy of the contract on Friday. Rule 27, which Unger had drafted, calls for more details on projects for the Council to have a two week period to review contracts before voting.

Martin pointed out that the council "ignored the rule" on two previous occasions, voting on contracts immediately, and asked when Rule 27 will be followed.

Town Council Vice Chairman Frank Lieto and Unger both said the process for the Pepper Street project got underway a year ago, before Rule 27 existed. Unger also said the State believes the project is already eight weeks behind schedule.

Town Attorney Jack Fracassini also reviewed the contract before the Council vote.

Council members agreed the governing body has come a long way in vetting projects and Unger said compliance with Rule 27 needs to be done earlier in the process going forward.
John R. January 14, 2014 at 09:12 AM
Seems to me that there are other roads in town that are in more dire need of 5 million dollars worth of improvements.
Geezer January 14, 2014 at 09:25 AM
Bill Bittar - With budget season approaching, it would be nice to see a small article on the relative percentage changes for town bonding totals as well as municipal union contract agreements as they apply to the fixed portion of the budget over the last 10 years. Perhaps the Patch readers would find that helpful too.
Chief Waldo January 14, 2014 at 10:51 AM
Didn't we just get it paved? I just don't understand the need to destroy the character of the town's roads, and people haven't seemed to learn for the other "improvements" to Pepper Street going back to when the intersection with Cutlers Farm Road was altered. Here's what going to happen: 1)The area between Jockey Hollow and Cambridge will be widened, flattened, and "sight lines will be improved". 2) As a result, people will drive that section faster, but the town won't do a speed survey and adjust the speed limit to accommodate the "improvements". 3) The people in the neighborhood will then complain about all of the "speeders", while the drivers are merely driving within the safe comfort level which the improvements have brought the road up to. 4) The police will set up speed traps to improve the "safety" by enforcing and antiquated speed limit that was set back when Pepper Street was dirt. 5) The Town will make money off the fines. 6) Insurance rates will go up for off the the "speeders". Or, we can leave it the way it is, with hills, curves, and limited sight lines, and traffic will drive that section slower than the previously "improved" sections. No speed traps will be needed. No fines will be levied. And drivers' insurance rates won't go up... as much.
Forma Bosse January 14, 2014 at 01:57 PM
Ah, Chief Waldo, if only it were a perfect world! As a Pepper St. resident, yes, taking out the bend in the road at Cutler's Farm Road has probably averted an untold number of accidents over the years. The speed limit on Pepper St. is 25 MPH and yes, it is antiquated. I find that over the past few years, there have been FEWER speed traps on Pepper St. and also elsewhere in town than previously for whatever reason. The section of road where the improvements are to take place is mostly commercial, so not much "character" will be lost. Incidentally, with all the new competition in the car insurance space, I'm paying much less for mine these days, so maybe it's time for you to spend your "15 minutes to save on car insurance."
Carol Ritter January 14, 2014 at 02:13 PM
I would like to see some of that money spent on making it safer for walkers and bicyclists, Pepper street is smooth and fast now. It's dangerous just to walk a small stretch of it to get to the Rail Trail. Mark off a bike lane, add a side walk, do something to make our town more people friendly.
Alex January 14, 2014 at 02:13 PM
I always thought 25mph was unusual for Pepper St. Is that because of the trail? It should be 30mph, though I agree with Forma Bosse, I don't usually see that many speed traps set up on it like in the past.
Forma Bosse January 14, 2014 at 02:30 PM
But Carol, your suggestions would destroy the character of the town's roads! Not to mention the burden that having to pay for and maintain sidewalks would place on the property owners...
Nick Kapoor January 14, 2014 at 04:47 PM
Let's not forget that the taxpayers of Monroe are directly responsible for 10% of this $5M project. Of course everyone pays federal, state and local taxes so yes, you're paying for it anyway. But the cost of this project is 80/10/10 between the federal government, state government and local government, respectively. The Town must hold the entire bond however. The numbers on this project are a little deceiving. Also, this project will increase traffic flow and turning for cars going on to Pepper and coming off of Pepper onto 25.
Frank Toth January 14, 2014 at 06:02 PM
Another bond for roads. Road improvements should be accounted for in the current Town Budget, and not put off for the next generation of citizens & politicians to deal with!
Alex January 14, 2014 at 09:20 PM
Is this work re-doing some of the work just done to Pepper St.? I really don't see what this project is going to accomplish that's worth 5 million or 500K for us to bond. I really do enjoy the rail trail, but it can be made safer for a lot less than what's being talked about here.
Carol Ritter January 14, 2014 at 11:22 PM
Question for Forma Bosse: why would all residents pay for improvements for cars but the property owners need to pay and maintain the sidewalks? Would it not improve our town to have sidewalks? right now we have a walkable score of 0. Having a safe place for residents to walk would not hurt the character of our roads. There are efforts being made in other towns to use their walkability score to draw more people and business to them.
Steve Kirsch January 15, 2014 at 11:16 AM
Nick already pointed out that our portion is only $500,000, but what he did not say was that depending on how the actual spending takes place, and assuming we continue to pass budgets with money for roads in them, we may not ever have to issue a bond for this specific project. What we are actually voting on is to give the town the authorization to bond if and when needed. Alex, this section of Pepper St did receive an overlay of pavement a couple of years ago just to keep the road from coming apart until this project could be done. Carol, the trail will actually be put “onto the grass” on the west side of the road. No more riding or walking in the street and no more crossing Pepper St several times along that portion. There are other parts to this project, such as the intersection of the north end of Pepper St and route 25, and the replacement of the culvert adjacent to Jockey Hollow Rd. More information on this project can be found at http://www.monroect.org/page325671.aspx
Forma Bosse January 15, 2014 at 01:47 PM
I don't disagree with you Carol, except there is a difference between how road improvement costs are funded and who pays for sidewalks. Typically, road improvements are bonded and all taxpayers share the cost. If sidewalks are mandated, most municipalities assess the property owner. While it can be argued that the property owner reaps most of the benefits of sidewalks, most will resist this improvement if given the opportunity. Another point is that improving the "walkability" of an area (as you put it) will, by design, reduce the rural character of that area.

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