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Board sets cutoff date for asphalt projects

Journal Opinion of Bradford, Vermont

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NORTH HAVERHILL—The Haverhill Selectboard got a lesson in road construction and the application of asphalt to town roads at its meeting on Monday night.

Chair Wayne Fortier had said at a previous meeting that he was concerned about the "sloughing" or removal of the shim coat of pavement that had been place on French Pond Road in October. He was critical of the work and called it a waste.

At this Monday's meeting, Haverhill Road Agent Stuart McDanolds explained the process of applying a shim coat to roads. He assured the board it was done correctly and it was normal to have some material separating from the surface, or slough.

"You're talking about a half an inch of material," McDanolds said, indicating the depth by displaying a small gap between his thumb and index finger. "That's not a lot of material." He said the aggregate, or stones, in the material are about three-eighths of an inch in diameter which means there's even less actual asphalt to stick to the road.

Town Manager Glenn English said he and McDanolds made the decision to apply the shim coat to restore the road profile and to buffer it a bit from the wear and tear of truck traffic this winter and spring.

"We wanted to do some sort of temporary, well not really temporary, but a permanent shim job, with the intent to allow heavy truck traffic to continue using the road," English said, adding that a top coat will be applied later this year. The shim coat, he explained, reduced ruts and depressions that allow water to pool and eventually destroy the road through freezes and thaws.

Fortier said he had been told by two other people with experience in road paving that the shim coat was applied when the temperature was too cold for it to have good adhesion and that's why it was crumbling and being ripped off by traffic and plows.

"Did we make a mistake here?" Fortier asked McDanolds.

McDanolds said that no one from the asphalt company said it was too cold to lay the material which he testified was 265 to 270 degrees at the time it was applied.

"In hindsight, we could have waited," McDanolds said.

Fortier asked if anyone on the company advised McDanolds that it was too cold and, if not, did the town have any recourse to get money back from the company or in kind additional service elsewhere.

McDanolds said he had not been advised of any temperature problem and he would ask the company if they could provide any relief.

"I don't know if it's worth the effort," McDanolds said. "We got what we asked for. We knew it would be minimal in some areas. We knew there would be some sloughing off in some areas."

"I wonder if we're making too much out of this," Wheeler said.

She said she has seen sloughing and peeling on other roads including ones in Woodsville which has a completely different crew tending the roads.

McDanolds agreed and said he didn't anticipate any problems with putting a top coat on French Pond Road this year as had been planned all along. It is a practice the town had been employing for years with success.

The board did come up with one takeaway from the experience— have a cutoff date for the application of asphalt and get requests in earlier to companies so that paving will be applied in the hot weather.

"I know a lot more about shim coats and asphalt than I ever did before," selectman Robert Roudebush said.

Ed Ballam can be reached at

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Original Publication Date: January 15, 2014

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