SALEM, N.H. — Public works director Richard Russell has come under fire from selectmen, who accused him of not informing them about necessary roadwork.
Selectmen lashed out at Russell during their meeting Thursday after they were asked to approve $90,000 to repair two roads in town.
“Why are we seeing this now?” board vice chairman James Keller said.
He questioned why the two streets — Duston Road and Field Avenue — were not included in the town’s $4.6 million roadwork plan for this year.
“I have a real problem with that. ... I’m just confused and darn frustrated,” Keller said. “I’m sick and tired of sitting here and dealing with stuff after the fact.”
Selectmen were asked to approve $60,000 for Duston Road and $30,000 for Field Avenue. The money would be withdrawn from a capital reserve account for roadwork.
Russell told selectmen he wasn’t sure Duston Road would last the winter without being repaired and that Field Avenue should be paved because other roads in the area are being done at the same time.
“I believe it makes more sense to do it while we’re in there,” Russell said. “I recommend that we get it done.”
Russell said delaying the work until next year or later would cause project costs to multiply. The reconstruction of Duston Road was not scheduled until 2018. The work on the road still needs to be done even if $60,000 is spent now as a temporary fix.
“It’s riddled with potholes,” Russell said, adding it won’t be safe to drive down. “It should be done.”
The paving of streets near Field Avenue begins next week, Russell said, prompting Selectman Stephen Campbell to question why the work was being done so late in the year.
“I’m really concerned about paving this late,” Campbell said. “I just can’t support it this year.”
Selectman Everett McBride Jr. agreed.
“We shouldn’t be paving in November,” he said.
Russell defended the decision, saying roads can be paved well into December as long as the temperature is above 40 degrees.
“November does not mean the end of the paving season,” he said.
Campbell echoed Keller’s concern that they should have been notified about the immediate need to fix the two roads.
“If we’re going to do something like this, someone should have let us know sooner,” Campbell said.
Selectmen’s Chairman Patrick Hargreaves defended Russell.
“You cannot blame anyone because of budget constraints,” he said. “I want to do both roads — get it done and over with.”
Michael Lyons, head of the Town-wide Road Stabilization Committee, also came to Russell’s defense. Field Avenue should have been on the paving list, he said, and excluding it was a mistake.
“It should have been addressed,” Lyons said. “It’s an oops. It should be done.”
Russell said there was a plan to upgrade Duston Road, but the work was postponed because of the town’s fiscal crisis.
“We had the money, but the money was shelved because of a shortfall in the budget,” he said.
Selectmen voted to repair Duston Road this year, but decided to hold off on Field Avenue until at least next year.