PALMER — Assemblyman Mokie Tew passed an amendment to Action Memorandum 20-124 at the Assembly meeting on Tuesday in an effort to cut down summer congestion in Big Lake on gravel roads. AM 20-124 included the Road Improvement Project list from the Big Lake Road Service Area for the summer of 2021, which Tew moved to amend by deleting four road paving projects totaling 1.07 miles of paving and add those funds to calcium chloride treatment of the gravel roads.
“As I went out and I campaigned and knocked on all these doors out there in Big Lake, they expressed to me that they’re tired of choking on all this dust and what am I going to do about it and i said well the only thing I know we can do, the cheapest way to get the most bang for it is to run calcium chloride. So now it’s time, the summer’s coming and I’m doing what I can do to fulfill my promise to those people that voted me in and that was to do the best I can on dust control,” said Tew.
Tew estimated that there are 80 miles of gravel roads in the Big Lake area and came with a letter from Big Lake RSA Supervisor William Heairet in support of Tew’s amendment. The Big Lake RSA last met on October 7 and approved the RIP list including the paving of .12 miles of Mlakar Drive, .1 mile of Birch Lake Drive, .45 miles of Jojoba Road and .4 miles of Kluani Drive for a total cost to the RSA of $135,000.
“Some of these projects are actually in part underway. There’s already been some clearing done on some of these roads and some of the early phases of the construction have already been done,” said Public Works Director Terry Dolan.
Tew said that he specifically spoke with just one member of the RSA board in reference to the amendment as not to violate the Open Meetings Act. Tew postponed AM 20-124 until the January 5 meeting in order to present his letter from RSA board Supervisor Heairet.
“The board approved the RIP list with Resolution 20-01 and that list includes repairs that address numerous safety concerns. Some of those projects have already begun, so the board has not met since then and I’m just very uncomfortable undermining the intention of the board since they did vote to approve this,” said Deputy Mayor Tam Boeve. “So the public did not have an opportunity to attend an RSA meeting and the rest of the board members did not have a chance to weigh in on this.”
Assemblyman Tim Hale, who builds roads for a living, also agreed that paving was a more permanent solution to dust control that calcium chloride treatments.
“The RSA board hasn’t had a chance to weigh in on this. I don’t think it’s appropriate for the Assembly to be necessarily micromanaging RSA priorities, RSA projects and then as far as transferring the money to calcium chloride, you know paving is much more long lasting much more easy to maintain and a much more effective method of dust control and I think you’re going to get a lot more bang for your buck out of paving,” said Hale.
Tew’s motion ultimately passed 5-2 with Assemblymen Hale, McKee, Sumner, Tew, and Yundt in support with Deputy Mayor Boeve and Assemblywoman Nowers in opposition.
“The community did put you in place to speak on behalf of them and I’ve got to believe that William has a heartbeat on the community,” said Yundt. “I have a hard time believing that the chair of the RSA and the Assemblyman don’t have a heartbeat on what the community wants to see.”
Tew made a second amendment to AM 20-124 which ultimately failed 4-3. Tew’s amendment was to remove $10,000 contributed from each RSA to cover salt, sand and chip piles for winter road surface treatments.
“I just seen that it was just slush money that didn’t need to be on there and I thought I’d call it to everybody’s attention and get it taken off,” said Tew.
Public Works Director Terry Dolan said that every RSA with an established quorum had supported the initiative, which will most likely be required by the Federal government with the release of new census numbers.
“We’ll be obligated under Federal law to minimize discharges into our waterways and this is one of the items that we’ll have to take on,” said Dolan. “We’ve got a high likelihood of having an urbanized area being designated under the census that’ll be released this spring and that’ll trigger a couple of permit requirements for us, one of which is an MS4 permit, municipal separate sewer and stormwater permit. That will require us under Federal law to minimize the discharges that we allow into our streams and our waterways and that includes our roadside ditches. These piles of salt and sand leach salts into the ground and into the waters in our streams and so this money will allow us to get started on preventing that leaching.”
Dolan noted that with warmer winters, more salt and sand is required and the Borough had run out in recent years, requiring an expensive midwinter purchase. Large piles of salt and sand at Central land fill have grown too large to fit under existing structures. Dolan said that the appropriation would not be made immediately and must first be approved by the Department of Environmental Conservation. Additionally, Dolan said that it would make it easier for Borough personnel to distribute the salt and sand when necessary.
“When we purchase it, it’ll be delivered out there to the borough facility and they’ll have a short trip,” said Dolan. “It’ll be much faster for them to apply traction material in the future once we do this and it’ll also protect the environment, that’s the real purpose of it.
Action Memorandum 20-124 as amended passed 6-1 with only Nowers voting in opposition.