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On road to major improvements

SHARON — With the multi-million dollar Sharon road repair project completed and the municipal elections past, it seemed like a good time to catch up with First Selectman Robert Loucks.Loucks was unopposed in this year’s election and now begins his second term in office.“We have 54 miles of paved roads in Sharon,” he said, summarzing the recently completed roadwork. “Of that, 36 or 37 miles have been completed. There are some roads that are in good shape and do not need fixing. But there are still 8 to 10 miles of roads in dire need of repair.”Loucks said he hopes that in the spring of 2012 the town will be able to find some money to repair the roads that still need attention. He shed some light on road maintenance. “For years they used a product called Cold Mix, sold by the Gorham company. That would go underneath, then the crews would ‘chip seal’ [with stone and oil] over that. The Cold Mix just did not stand up. Even patching it does not work because the Cold Mix underneath crumbles. It has not proved to be a good product.” The manufacturer claims to have improved the product, “but I’m not going to take a chance on that. I like the old-time proven hot mix that we are getting out of Amenia Sand and Gravel.”By now, he said, “It’s starting to get too late in the year to do any more repairs.” The weather can’t be too hot or too cold or the mixture won’t set. Most plants that make materials close down in winter.“The plant should be open until the first week of December,” Loucks said. “At this point, we’ll still be getting some blacktop from the plant. Town crews will use that for filling potholes on Cary Hill Road, Knibloe Hill Road and nearby places. There are potholes on these roads that need to be fixed, but we were hampered by the recent major storms.”In addition to its 54 miles of paved road, Sharon has 27.7 miles of dirt roads. Maintaining dirt roads is more costly to the town than maintaining paved ones, Loucks said.“People build their houses on these dirt roads and think the roads are fixed once and then remain in good condition. That is not the case. A number of dirt roads are anywhere from 4 to 6 feet below the banks on each side. That makes it difficult to drain out after storms.”During Tropical Storm Irene, Loucks said, “We lost some culverts, plus it washed out the area around the culverts. We had three storms, one right after the other doing the same damage, but Irene brought the most water. Because of Irene, we have six or seven places we are going to have to put in additional culvert pipes. There was no bridge damage from Irene. There was a little damage on River Road, on the Sharon side of the Housatonic River, near Cornwall Bridge.”Of the response from town residents to the work, he said,“I think 99 percent of the people are happy with the roads. I’ve been getting a lot of good comments, letters from residents and press about the road project. There are always some people who are unhappy with anything.” As for other projects going on around town, Loucks said he did not know when the refurbished Sharon Motor Lodge would reopen. But he did say, “I have admiration for people who come to town and fix things up. Just before I came to office, that place was a drug den. The State Police were watching it. I saw cars with New Jersey license plates going there. I called the police, they monitored the situation and came back to me telling me there was a lot of drug dealing going on.”Happily, things are looking up in town.

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