Town to look to private  contractor for ‘safe routes’

Regulations complicate work for Department of Public Works

DUBLIN — The town has decided to go with an outside contractor, rather than look to its Department of Public Works, for a new walking route intended to get elementary schoolchildren safely to school, according to Select Board member Sterling Abram. While the change in course means a slight delay to allow for the bidding process, it isn’t expected to cost taxpayers more money.

Abram said the town is planning to move forward with construction of the walkway this summer, while Dublin Consolidated School is on break.

In an attempt to save money on the project, Abram said the town sought approval from the Federal Highway Administration — which with the state administers the Safe Routes to School Grant — to do the bulk of the work in-house. Although state and federal regulations permit towns to take that approach, Abram said the hurdles proved too insurmountable.

“That allowance is there, but they’ve never actually used it in working with a town of our size,” Abram said.

Having the town’s Highway Department employees play an active role in the project made sense, he said, but actual implementation of the plan proved difficult.

John Corrigan, coordinator of the Safe Routes to School program at the N.H. DOT, said by phone Friday that given the complexities of federal regulations it tends to be easier for a town to hire a private contractor. “It’s very difficult to make the case that it is in the public interest for town employees to do the work,” Corrigan said.

Another nuance of the Dublin project is that the Select Board had planned to put out bids for subcontractor services to do a portion of the work, Corrigan said. But having half the work done by town employees and the other half completed by a private contractor just doesn’t seem feasible, he said.

Voters accepted a $63,999 Safe Routes to School Grant at Town Meeting 2012. The grant will allow for the installation of a crosswalk across Main Street, Route 101, to the Dublin Consolidated School and a sidewalk adjacent to the driveway to the school’s front door.

Abram said engineers feel confident the work can be done at that cost. Engineering for the project is complete and the state is expected to approve the design in the next few weeks, he said. After gaining approval, the town will put the work out to bid.

Also on the town’s infrastructure improvements list is phase two of a two-part initiative to slow traffic on Route 101. A small reflective traffic island, in the same vein as the one at the center of town, is planned to slow eastbound traffic before it continues down the hill by the fire station, and into the center of town. Abram said there is a small chance construction could commence in 2013, but 2014 is more likely .

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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