By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — Selectmen approved $327,000 to reconstruct part of Sand Hill Road — a project that was not in the town’s plans for this year.
But the board and Town Manager Keith Hickey believe the town will save thousands of dollars by taking on the project at least a year ahead of schedule.
Selectmen voted, 4-1, Monday night to take the money from its roadwork capital reserve fund. Selectman Stephen Campbell voted in opposition.
Hickey said yesterday the reconstruction would be done in conjunction with other work to be performed on Sand Hill Road this spring.
The town is already reconstructing a 620-foot portion of Sand Hill from Pond Street to Carol Avenue.
The work approved Monday would upgrade an 835-foot portion between Carol Avenue and Hampshire Street, Hickey said. Although a cost estimate was not available, Hickey said there would be significant savings if both projects were done at the same time.
“We believe it is the least expensive alternative,” he said
Selectmen’s Chairman Everett McBride Jr. agreed. He said it would be best to do the additional work now since water lines are being replaced there anyway.
“It’s a situation where we’re trying to complete a project from front to end,” McBride said yesterday. “It just makes sense to complete the project now and not have to come back.”
Selectmen Patrick Hargreaves, Michael Lyons and James Keller also voted in favor of taking the $327,000 from the $919,000 in the capital reserve fund.
But Campbell said the unexpected expense would deplete the fund.
The fund’s purpose is to make sure there is enough money for any emergency roadwork, Campbell said yesterday. Money from the fund was urgently needed in 2006 to repair roads damaged by the infamous Mother’s Day flood that wreaked havoc on the region, he said.
“I was against how much it would drain down the balance in the account in case there were any problems,” Campbell said.
He also believes large expenditures should be authorized by voters.
“It’s another way of finding a way to spend money without the people’s permission,” Campbell said.
Selectmen also discussed the possibility of reconstructing South Shore Road in the immediate future even though the work is not scheduled to be done for several years. Some residents of the road, including George Abraham, have asked that the work be made a top priority.
Along with the work approved Monday, the town is scheduled to spend more than $4.6 million on road improvements this year. That includes work on Pond Street and Stiles Road.
In other business, selectmen accepted $83,035 in state and federal reimbursement money for costs incurred for the Bluff Street bridge project.