By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Money needed to replace a crushed culvert and washed out roadway will come from the town's “rainy day fund” to get the project moving, following a unanimous vote by the council last night to fast tract the Drew Road fix.
Public Works Director Mike Fowler brought the $450,000 project before the council last night, explaining that the corrugated metal 6-by-8-foot culvert that runs underneath Drew Road was crushed by the heavy flow of water during two recent storms, which washed out half of the road and caused heavy flood damaged to three properties on both sides of the road.
A hydraulic study showed that a 16-by-20-foot concrete box culvert would be necessary to handle the 50- to 100-year storm flows, Fowler said.
Replacing older bridges in town has been an ongoing process, Fowler said. In 2001 five bridges were approved for Bridge Aid through the state Department of Transportation, allowing for 80 percent reimbursement of engineering and construction costs. The final two bridges – Fordway and South Avenue – are scheduled for repair between this summer and sometime in 2011.
Drew Road was originally scheduled for repair in 2012, but town engineers have determined the project could not be delayed further.
“The unfortunate part is that the state doesn't have ample funds to fund it right now, so we will get reimbursement when the funds are available. In a case such as this, where they will allow us to 'advance build' in 2010, we may not get reimbursed until 2018 or 2020,” Fowler said.
Councilor Neil Wetherbee asked if there were other bridge projects in town in danger of failure. Fowler mentioned three which are on the short list for future repairs – North High Street at Franklin Street, Rockingham Road east of Bradford Street and Tsienneto Road off Route 102.
But state funding for such projects is limited, Fowler said.
“A few years ago we tried to get hazard mitigation funds, so we're looking for alternate sources all the time,” Fowler said.
In other business, the council voted to authorize Town Administrator Gary Stenhouse to fill a full-time vacancy left by Derry Cable Television Director Barb Ellingwood, who recently retired after a six-month leave of absence due to health issues.
Although the station has been running relatively smoothly under the direction of full-timer Chris Martin and some part time staff, Stenhouse said demands on the staff would soon be increasing. The station was an important facet of Derry's outward image, particularly as it continues to promote economic development.
“We think it's a critical position to fill,” Stenhouse said. “We have a cable system here that should be the envy of the entire state.”
Councilor Kevin Coyle cast the only dissenting vote, saying that he felt the council should at least consider going with a part-time employee, if only to save on the added cost of benefits during a difficult budget cycle.
“We've gone six months without a full-time employee in that position, and our station hasn't suffered.” Coyle said.