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Amherst to repave Pine Street, resurface roads north of UMass

Town Manager John Musante told the Select Board Monday that Pine Street, which has been deteriorating for years between North Amherst and Cushman, should have the base coat applied when water and sewer installation are finished sometime this summer.

Chairwoman Stephanie O’Keeffe said the level of relief from both residents and people who use Pine Street will be enormous.

“This road has just been an absolute disaster for an embarrassingly long time,” O’Keeffe said.

Musante joked that once the road has the base coat, drivers will be able to travel on Pine Street without getting whiplash.

The final top coat, though, will not be put on the road until 2015. Beginning in April, the Public Works Committee will begin soliciting suggestions on how the road should be resurfaced, said Department of Public Works Superintendent Guilford Mooring

The public needs to inform the committee about what they want to see on Pine Street, including whether new sidewalks, multi-use paths and bicycle lanes should be installed, Mooring said.

“What is the goal? What does the community want?” Mooring asked.

The roads that will be rebuilt, all off North Pleasant Street, are Farview Way, Old Town Road, Berkshire Terrace, Valley Lane and Mooreland and Fairfield streets.

“This is truly the biggest section of roadways in town in need of immediate repair,” Mooring said.

The projects are primarily funded by between $700,000 to $800,000 in state Chapter 90 highway money.

“This represents, I think, an aggressive list with the resources we have,” Musante said.

Besides the water and sewer lines on Pine Street, there is water and sewer line installation planned on Harkness Road and sewer lines to be put in at Amherst Woods, Mooring said.

“It’s a big list and it’s a lot of work,” Mooring said.

He said the four members of the town’s engineering department will be assisted by two additional staff during the summer.

“This will be a very trying year for them,” Mooring said. “There won’t be people answering the phone in engineering.”

Other projects include a thin “micropaving” that will be used on North Pleasant Street between Eastman Lane and Presidential Apartments and on Sunderland Road between North Pleasant Street and Cowls Road, and a small resurfacing that will occur on West Street in front of the admissions building at Hampshire College.

Mooring said the micropaving will extend the life of the roads and is an important maintenance tool.

Projects for future years will be determined by a ranking of the condition of roads and how heavily used they are. Mooring said a revised list will be completed later this year using a truck equipped with a digital camera and a laser device.

Special Town Meeting

Also Monday, the Select Board scheduled a special Town Meeting for 7 p.m. March 19 at the middle school auditorium after receiving a petition with 200 signatures advocating for the town to ask the state Legislature to allow a local minimum wage. Advocates want Amherst to “mandate employers compensate their employees at a rate of no less than $15 per hour.”

Board member Alisa Brewer called scheduling the meeting an “unfortunate, badly timed situation,” because annual Town Meeting will begin in late April.

But O’Keeffe said the signatures are valid, forcing the board to schedule the special meeting between March 18 and April 10. “We have no ability to put this off,” she said.

The petition was brought by Matthew Cunnigham-Cooke, a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts and member of the UMass Student Labor Action Project and the Amherst Area Workers Rights Committee.

Cunningham-Cooke said organizers are working on a two-track campaign to improve wages, with the focus on both the town and UMass, although more than 95 percent of the affected employees are believed to work for the university, he said. Private businesses would generally not be affected, he argued.

“Our beef is not with downtown Amherst in any sense,” Cunningham-Cooke said.

A kick-off event in which organizers will elaborate on their strategy is planned for Wednesday.

The Select Board has not yet taken a position on the petition.

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