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Morristown expects road construction delays due to wetland study

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MORRISTOWN — Wetland protection regulations may slow down construction on a $500,000 road connecting Main and Bay streets, though Department of Public Works employees still are working to clear the land.

The project is designed to connect the northern and southern parts of the village in the event that the bridge spanning Morristown Bay is shut down. Village officials expect the bridge will be closed in the near future due to structural deficiencies.

Earlier in the year the village purchased a $96,000, 130-acre property that reaches from Main to Bay Street.

Part of the property contains wetlands, and Mayor Cheryl A. Shatraw said the Army Corps of Engineers instructed the village to get a plan in place that will allow for the road to have as light a footprint as possible.

Mrs. Shatraw said the corps wants to ensure that water is able to pass relatively freely under the road.

Village Superintendent of Public Works Kevin J. Crosby said the village is consulting with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to work out the engineering details to ensure wetland protection.

Mr. Crosby said he expects the process may slow down, but not halt, the project.

In the meantime, DEC has given the village a permit to demolish a beaver dam in the path of the road and trap the beaver.

Mr. Crosby said the engineering study needed to protect the wetlands won’t be completed until spring or summer.

The village will press on clearing the 60-foot wide, 0.75-mile-long path through the forest where the road will eventually be built, Mr. Crosby said, so they it be ready to build once the study is complete.

The total price tag for the project, including paving the road, is roughly $576,000, Mr. Crosby said.

Mrs. Shatraw said the village is working on a plan to pay for the project. Currently the village is investigating low-interest bank loans and grants.

Mrs. Shatraw said she hopes to have more clarity about funding sources by the spring when the village passes its 2014-2015 fiscal year budget.

With the bridge in a state of disrepair, Mrs. Shatraw said, the road is a top priority for the village to ensure emergency vehicles have access to the southern part of the village.

Without the bridge a two minute trip from the Morristown Volunteer Fire Department to the intersection of Northumberland and Bay Streets would take 12 minutes.

Once the road is built, Mrs. Shatraw said, the village hopes to see economic development follow. Removing the bridge would allow the water in the bay to flow more freely, possibly opening up waterfront property.

“Back years ago when I was a kid you could swim in there,” Mrs. Shatraw said of the bay that is now clogged with mud and weeds. “It would be great to be able to develop that bay if we could get the bridge out of there and get the water flowing like it used to.”

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