MARBLEHEAD — Selectmen voted unanimously late Wednesday night to address concerns about the chipsealing of neighborhood roads off West Shore Drive.
The board voted to have the town explore an alternative "microsurface" treatment called "Cape Seal" or similar treatments that will fix the roads chipsealed last week.
More than 100 residents from streets off West Shore Drive flooded the Community Center as selectmen fielded concerns about the road treatment most said was best for country roads – the tracking rocks and tar into their homes, the smell of tar and increased road noise as cars roll by. Dogs were getting tar on their pads and Grace Perry said she could no longer drive her moped on the street. She even made a video and posted it online to showcase the state of her street.
On Aug. 14 and 15, the town treated several streets with a layer of liquid asphalt followed by the application of fine aggregate, small stones, as a way to preserve the existing road surface from failing. The chipseal was then rolled out and is being swept for lose stones so that overtime the stones will settle and consolidate.
"It's substantially less money" to chipseal a street than to mill and repave it, said Town Administrator Jason Silva in an interview, who said the process, including sweeping away lose stones, takes about three weeks for the stones to embed in the asphalt and harden.
On Wednesday, Silva told residents the town heard their complaints loud and clear.
"I'm taking it to heart and taking it very seriously."
Selectmen also apologized to the frustrated crowd for not doing their due diligence, but they also said they thought this was going to be a benign process to keep the roads from falling apart.
Selectman Harry Christensen Jr. said he lives in the neighborhood, "so all of your grievances, I'm living with it."
"We had not idea this was going to be the end result," said Chairperson Jackie Belf-Becker.
The roads were being swept this week and are scheduled to be swept again in two weeks, according to an update by the DPW on the town's website.
Streets that were treated include Beverly Avenue, Bayview Road, Jersey Street, Power Terrace, Tidewinds Terrace, Overlook Drive, Puritan Road, Knollwood Road, Santry Road and Village Street, among them. A street sweeper could be seen going up and down Jersey Street on Wednesday afternoon.
However, the process has left residents living on several streets befuddled by small rocks embedded in tar being tracked into their house. Several residents spoke of their concerns on Wednesday morning.
Some like Cathi Lyons worry that when streets like Jersey Street are plowed in the winter, the small rocks with tar on them will wind up in the harbor.
"Also, I mean I can't ride my road bike on these," she said of the small stones in the road. "My husband has been giving me a ride out to the end of the street to go riding," Lyons said.
Residents said they were confused as to why their streets were chipsealed because it appeared they were in OK shape.
"We had decent asphalt on all of those streets," said Alex Kolnick of Tidewinds Terrace. He said the roads were not paved that long ago, less than 10 years. "Why they did it, I don't know."
"The issue is we have rocks in the house already. Smell is awful all the time, it doesn't go away," said Kolnick's wife, Marina Kolnick, of the tar smell. "It's horrible. It's just horrible." It reminds her of country roads in her native Ukraine where roads are not busy. She said residents can't walk their dogs on the surface, which gets slippery when it gets wet.
Residents said they were informed by notices from the DPW the day before that chipsealing would be happening, but they did not know what that process would entail. The notices asked them to get their cars off the street. They were not asked for their input. They said the communication was "horrible."
"Nobody understood, not a single person," said Beverly Avenue resident Erin Noonan, who has three children, 10, 9 and 6. She said it's tough for four kids who live down the street to play street hockey on the chipseal.
"It affects the quality of life," Noonan said. "I feel like our kids now don't enjoy the recreational use of the streets that other kids in the town do, now." Noonan said skateboarding on the chipseal is tough.
"It should be shaved off and they need to apply regular asphalt," Alex Kolnick said.
"I think we need to restore the road to what it was," Noonan said. She said she understands the chipsealing is a symptom of the town trying to "balance revenue stream with necessary expenditures, but I think it is a struggle, but I'm not willing to sacrifice this in the town of Marblehead. I think we can do better."
Renee Keaney of Beverly Avenue worried about the impact on property values.
"If someone is looking to buy a home, this is a negative. If we cannot find one neighbor who thinks this is acceptable, and if we don't then that means other people are going to also say: 'I don't want this.'"
Keaney said the road reminded her of country roads in Kansas and Nebraska.
Jersey Street resident Julie Colella said she has asthma, and she has had problems at home since the road work. She has been staying with a friend since last Thursday because her asthma is so bad.
"The town told me to wait three weeks," Colella said. "I said, 'Well, how long do you think I can stay at my friend's house?"
Silva said the town has a pavement management plan that prioritizes the town's paving needs, and the plan is updated annually.
"Our roads needs, repair needs, far exceed the resources we have," Silva said.
This year, for the first time, the town is trying to be proactive, Silva said, trying to preserve and extend the life of pavement in fair condition that is about eight to 10 years old, using processes that are far less expensive than milling and paving.
With chipsealing, there is a consolidation process. Over time, the excess aggregate will get swept up and the chip seal will consolidate into a smoother surface.
"We are about three weeks away," he said of that happening.
However, it appears that the town will be moving ahead with the alternative treatment in the weeks ahead. Repaving the roads, everyone understood, was too expensive and could not be done this year.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.