Sinking feeling for private road residents

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:54

    WEST MILFORD — The recent dry weather has come as a blessing to many residents in town living on private roads. A combination of poor drainage and the constant erosion of road surface are causing many in several areas to cry out for help. There used to be many private roads throughout West Milford, but over the past 10 to 15 years, possession changed. The township now has responsibility for many of these roads, with residents usually paying for the initial costs of paving. Patrick McCarter lives on Flanders Road in Upper Greenwood Lake. He's experienced the difficulties that private road residents can have. "The problems we are having are due to a lack of drainage. It is at its worst during torrential rainfalls over a short period of time, which happens when the road becomes eroded and some of it washes away," he explained. McCarter and some of his neighbors brought their case to town hall to seek the help of the council. Township Administrator Richard Kunze met the frustrated residents and offered some hope for the future. "One of the ideas being considered by the residents is to request an assessment project to pave the roads and install drainage facilities," said Kunze. "There has been some discussion on the staff level of prioritizing improvements to non-township roads, as road assessment projects, based on public safety and maintenance reasons but the council has not had a full discussion on this yet," he continued. Kunze stopped short, however, of indicating the town is ready to take on the expense of these private roadways. "We are planning to talk with the council about a new private road-improvement program in the fall," he said. "While we have obvious concerns over the state of the non-township roads, it is premature at this point to say we are considering a full takeover of all of these roads." "In West Milford there are 37 miles of non-township roads, 17 miles of those are unpaved," says Town Engineer Rich McFadden. McFadden is charged with the task of overseeing the roads owned by the town and with the repair and upgrade work carried out on them. Regarding the cost of the town taking over the roads, McFadden said, "I would be reluctant to name a set cost, as every road is different. Some will cost more than others when you take into account the size of the road as well as the extent of work needed." The price tag is certain to run into the tens of millions and the rising price of oil will also come into play because of its effects on the cost of asphalt. "The last project we did was on Greenwich Road, which was an extensive job, and it cost approximately $1.2 million to complete," said McFadden. Most private roads are currently the domain of resident associations. Awosting resident Don Webb's home has been the focus of a year-long debate with the Awosting Residents Association. The dispute surrounds incomplete work carried out on Shepard Road, which Webb claims caused a diversion of water onto his property. The work was carried out by a contractor hired by the residents association for the private roads that exist throughout Awosting. The possibility of legal action, threatened recently by Webb, appears to have sparked tentative negotiations between all relevant parties. Flanders Road resident McCarter is unsure whether a project to upgrade the road would be acceptable to all residents. "Some may want it, some may not due to the cost," said McCarter. "It's clear there are lots of questions still to be answered."