EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 27, 2013

Hampstead looks at emergency access road

By Alex Lippa

---- — HAMPSTEAD — There is only one way to get to and from Hampstead Middle School, but public safety officials are trying to change that.

Police and fire officials have suggested adding a second road to make access easier in emergency situations.

“You look at the mass shootings which have been happening, and you think about what if it happened here,” police Chief Joseph Beaudoin said. “With only one road in, it’s bound to be congested.”

The only way to get to Hampstead Middle School is an access road off School Street. A second road being discussed would provide an entrance off Emerson Avenue as well.

The road would be a quarter-mile long and would be either a paved double lane road or a gravel road. The project is estimated to cost $100,000 if it is a gravel road and $267,122 for a paved road.

“We just want something which could offer immediate protection in case of something catastrophic,” School Board Chairman Natalie Gallo said.

Not everyone is completely on board with the plan.

Conservation Commission Chairman Tim Lovell had concerns about the road potentially going through wetlands.

“If it is a fully paved road, we feel it would be a complete disaster,” Lovell said. “More water would go into the soil than it can handle. We are suggesting a one-lane gravel road.”

Kim Lindquist’s home on 6 Agawam Ave. abuts the property where the new road would be built.

“I understand why they are looking at this, but I have concerns,” she said. “If this becomes a two-lane paved road, it’s going to become an alternate route to go through the center of town and it will bring traffic which isn’t even school related.”

Lindquist proposes exploring a deal with St. Anne’s Church to put an access road on their property.

“There is already a place for a cut road there,” she said. “All we’d need is permission from the archdiocese of Manchester. It’s an option that would take work, but we’d need to be creative.”

Gallo said the current proposal would involve an area of land which intersects a practice soccer field and part of a cross-country course.

“We’d have to find alternatives for those activities,” Gallo said.

There are at least three ways for the school district to pay for the road.

“We could add it on to the proposed budget, it could be taken out of the school’s surplus fund or we could include it as a warrant article next year,” Gallo said. “The warrant article is what most people seemed to prefer.”

That includes Lindquist.

“This is something that would change the character of downtown Hampstead,” she said. “This is something that should be decided by the taxpayers.”