By Elizabeth Rose
---- — MERRIMAC — More than a dozen residents packed the selectman’s office Monday night to debate the permitting of large trucks to transport construction materials across River Road in the Merrimacport neighborhood.
Calling their neighborhood “beaucolic” and their homes “fragile,” the residents opposed a trucking and boating proposal emanating from the Wallace Boatyard at 103 River Road.
John Wallace, owner of the now inactive boatyard, was accompanied by Paul Grimaldi of Walsh Construction, chief contractors of the Whittier Bridge project. Walsh Construction has offered to lease the River Road property to serve as part of the reconstruction plan for the I-95 bridge over the Merrimack River. Their proposal also offered to rid the property of construction materials and reconstruct the bulkhead.
Their proposal consisted of three to six daily trips of large trucks traveling from the I-495 exit to the dock of the boatyard. The dock would serve as a staging area in order to send materials by boat to the site of the Route I95 Whittier Bridge construction. Trucking loads would operate Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and span the time of the bridge project, which is projected to be two to three years.
Wallace presented selectmen with a document containing 14 signatures of neighbors who did not oppose the proposal.
In a debate that ranged from contentious to cooperative, residents expressed concerns that included possible bylaw infractions, disturbance of the peace, harm to roads and infrastructure and citizen safety. The residents’ counter-proposal called for limiting the transport to five days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and selected black-out times that might include weddings, parties and times that the school bus is on River Road.
Elizabeth Pell, a River Road resident, offered to organize residents to assist Wallace, either financially or otherwise, in order to avoid the trucks coming into the neighborhood.
“Let us talk with you about how we can be helpful,” Pell said.
Selectman Laura Mailman suggested that residents form a neighborhood committee to meet with Wallace and discuss alternatives, such as the formation of a park at that site.
“Part of being a good neighbor is to listen to neighbors’ concerns in an attempt to come up with solutions that satisfy everyone,” Mailman said.
In conclusion, Grimaldi appeared to withdraw his proposal. “We don’t want to be in a neighborhood where we are not wanted,” he said.
By Tuesday morning, Wallace had not heard from Grimaldi and considered the proposal withdrawn.
In other business, selectmen invited the current trash vendor to attend a meeting to review trash pick-up policies because trash bags without yellow stickers are being routinely hauled away. Selectmen are concerned that this activity inflates the cost for solid waste tipping fees and also can over time increase the town’s tax base. Selectmen want residents to continue to purchase stickers and the vendor to check for stickers before hauling materials away.