standing Charlestown Town Hall

CHARLESTOWN — Members of the Town Council voted Monday to award the contract for the controversial reconstruction of Burdickville Road to the D’Ambra Construction company of Coventry. The vote, which was unanimous, awarded the project for an amount not to exceed $533,333.  

Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz explained that the reconstruction was first proposed in 2015 and would be one of the town's last major road projects.

“It’s the last major road reconstruction for the town,” he said. “This one and Old Mill Road are the last ones for our town. It’s about 5,700 feet of Burdickville Road from the Hopkinton town line to Shumankanuc Hill Road.”

The reconstruction will involve the installation of concrete drainage culverts, the removal of eight trees, resurfacing the road with chip seal and widening the road by two feet on each side to 22 feet. The town’s subdivision regulations call for 24-foot wide roads, but after hearing residents’ concerns, the town agreed to reduce the proposed width.

During three public hearings, some property owners said they were concerned about damage to their wells during construction.

“There were concerns from the public, and as a result of those we are going to do some pre- and post-construction water-quality tests for wells within 200 feet of any areas where we have rock removal,” Stankiewicz said. “We also plan to have some standby services, should anyone lose their water ... and also we have a well service that’s contracted with the town.” 

Residents are divided on the project and Town Council President Virginia Lee invited them to express their opinions once again before Monday's vote. It is generally agreed that the road needs repairs, but opponents of the reconstruction warn that the wider, smoother road will encourage speeding, making the road even less safe than it is now and destroy the rural character they love.

“I don’t think there are many, if any, Burdickville Road residents that don’t want the road repaired,” resident Michael Jarrett said. “But many of us Burdickville Road residents fear that if the work is done to the proposed  extent, our road will actually be less safe.”

Seth Dionne said he and many of his neighbors were primarily concerned about the effects of widening the road.

“Will the town please compromise and not make it any wider,” he said. “It doesn’t need to be wider. It’s been as wide as it is for 50, 60 years and I don’t know of anybody ever being struck on the road.”

Kim Coulter, who with her family, owns the Stoney Hill Cattle Farm on nearby Shumankanuc Hill Road, told a cautionary tale about that road’s reconstruction and how the speeding problem became so acute that there are frequent accidents and she is afraid to walk on the road.

“I can’t walk the dogs, I can’t do anything,” she said. “I put my cattle from one side of the road to the other. I had three people that almost killed my cows. They came down the hill so fast they couldn’t stop.”

Other residents, however, said Burdickville Road needed extensive repairs that couldn’t be put off any longer.

“We do have to move on it, there’s no doubt about that,” said Mike Adams. “The road is a documented safety hazard and you have to look out for what’s best for all the people in town. The cost will continue to escalate over the years if we don’t move on this.”

Councilor Deborah Carney said given the poor condition of the road, she was in favor of the project.

“We have a responsibility as a town to maintain the road, and I’m in favor of awarding the bid and getting this project done, because it probably should have been done three years ago,” she said.

Lee said the project had been delayed for three years so the public would have plenty of time to provide input and noted that many of their issues had been addressed.

“The concerns are all addressed in the bid, all these changes and restrictions, and the other thing to remember is if it’s not done this year, the budget goes away,” she said.

Carney proposed a motion to award the bid and the remaining council members approved it. Construction is expected to begin in the spring.

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