On the Roads, In Vershire
Wild weather, new garage plans, budget preparations for Town Meeting keep the Vershire Road Crew busy this winter!
Vershire's road crew is small but mighty, covering nearly the entire town as only one road is maintained by the state. Alan Lyford, known as Ally, started his eighth year as Road Foreman last November, assisted by Doug Stone, former Road Foreman in Thetford, in his fourth year with Vershire's crew, and occasionally by John Beebe, along with Vern Stone as Road Commissioner. They have "metamorphosed into an experienced and efficient team," according to Town Clerk Gene Craft, a sentiment echoed by nearly all the feedback Gene gets regarding our Road Crew from residents.
Vershire Road Crew's Doug Stone helping out with recycling
The Vershire Town Plan of 2011 tells us that Vershire has a total of 60.08 miles of town roads, consisting mostly of Class 3 roads. This does not include the 7.73 miles of Vermont Route 113 that runs through Vershire and is maintained by the State. There are 4.96 miles of Class 2 roads, 26.79 miles of Class 3 roads and 20.6 miles of Class 4 roads, according to the Vermont Department of Transportation.
Storms often hit just before commute time, and plowing takes at least from 4 to 6 a.m. depending on conditions. Priorities include the school bus route first, Eagle Hollow, then side roads. Gene monitors the radios from the Town Office, relaying calls to the crew in case of a tree down or other incident that demands immediate attention. He also enjoys taking calls from residents praising the crew for their good work.
This year has been “wild so far," says Ally, with temperatures fluctuating widely every week, often from below zero to above freezing, making it hard to keep up with changing conditions. He says the keys to safe winter driving are “slowing down and having good tires.” His advice for residents and other motorists: “the biggest thing is speed,” as people drive “too fast on the back roads” like “Eagle Speedway,” another appellation for Eagle Hollow Rd. All-season tires are “more of a 3-season tire” in this climate, he adds. The sources he relies on are National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration for the Burlington area and Channel 3 for weather predictions and radar.
It's difficult planning year to year as the seasonal variations in weather can be extreme. Ally estimates that he's "used about the same amount of sand already this year as all of last year," sanding nearly every day, but the sand pile is holding out so far. Gene agrees, "when it’s really cold and icy the first two cars blow off the sand."
The sand pile, so far so good.
Paved roads include Goose Green, a small part of Eagle Hollow, parts of Miller Pond Road and South Vershire Road. Those are treated with de-icer, a calcium chloride mix. The dirt roads are sanded. The state uses a liquid de-icer on Vt. Route 113, our only state road, which is maintained out of the District 4 garage in Thetford.
Gene notes that the current crew is very frugal, and tries to save the town money by fixing things themselves when they can, including Doug welding pieces when possible. Ally reports that they're“working feverishly” every week on the budget they'll publish in the warning for Town Meeting. They plan to increase the time between trucks from two years to four or five years to reduce the overlapping of payments. He's now pricing new trucks for this year, then plans on setting up an equipment rotation. The grader will be twenty years old soon, with backhoe also up for replacement in a couple of years. He'd like to let people know in advance to minimize “sticker shock.”
Gene anticipates this will be “a pivotal year” as “the town will be moving fairly quickly to build a new garage” on the site of the current recycling center, purchased by the town for that purpose. He continues, "we have the land, people who care, have knowledge and expertise to give the town," referring to the select board and a newly-forming town garage committee that will consist of members of the select board and road crew as well as knowledgeable residents. The committee will meet by the end of January, and will help with permitting and navigating state requirements. The old garage, built in 1968 is not worth putting much more money into, Ally notes, as it's in a poor location, being too close to the stream, and "horrendous” to heat.
The current Town Garage on Vershire Center Rd.
Meanwhile, we're fortunate to have such a dedicated road crew, though when all else fails, there's always Steve Ward with his tow-truck and flatbed. But most of the time if we can get out of our own driveways we can expect that Ally and Doug have the situation well in hand, even before daybreak. Ally says it's hard for him to keep up with email and paperwork, which is understandable considering how much time he spends actually out on the roads. Today I caught him returning to the garage after spending a chunk of his Saturday sanding the Town Center in anticipation of a memorial service tomorrow. Being able to gather together is central to our sense of community, balancing the long commutes many residents make to work and shop outside of our town - and both are made possible by the dedication and hard work of our road crew. We thank you.
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