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Bristol pays the price for Irene's devastation

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Posted on September 3, 2011 |
By Andrew Stein



BRISTOL — Selectboard chairman Joel Bouvier late last week indicated that progress was being made in Bristol after Tropical Storm Irene tore up chunks of the town, but he noted that it came with a big price tag.

 “Our biggest loss was Lincoln Road, the main road to Lincoln,” Bouvier said on Thursday. “We lost about 200 feet and that’s probably going to be in excess of $75,000 (to repair). Town-wide we had about $75,000 to $100,000 worth of damage.”

But the town did make one big milestone on Thursday morning when it lifted the boil-water order that had been in effect for the Bristol municipal water system since Sunday. Bouvier and Town Administrator Bill Bryant came across dirty water in the town’s fire house during the heavy rains brought by Irene that evening. They issued a boil-water order for fear that the water system’s contact tank — where chlorine is applied to the water — was inundated by the New Haven River.

To ensure the safety of town drinking water, the municipal water system was blown out and sterilized.

At an emergency Bristol selectboard meeting on Wednesday evening, the board announced that the first bacteria test on the town’s water system had come back clean. On Thursday morning the results of the second test also came back clean and officials declared the town’s drinking water safe to drink.

As in Lincoln, Ripton and other Green Mountain towns, many roads in Bristol were hit hard by the storm, and Lincoln Road was hit hardest. The huge hole in the road above Bartlett Falls was being reconstructed Thursday, and Bouvier estimated that it would be open as a one-lane road by the end of the day Friday.

Bristol road foreman Peter Bouvier speculated that Lincoln Road would be open to two-way traffic this week  (due to a Labor Day weekend deadline the Independent was printed early, visit addisonindependent.com for an update).

Bristol officials are closely documenting the town’s damage, Joel Bouvier said, and they’ll apply for funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He also said that he strongly encourages residents to report damage, even if it’s minor, by calling 211, a United Way-staffed information and helpline. State officials said that documenting damage will help residents and public officials make the case for the most possible funding from FEMA and insurance companies.

OTHER ROAD DAMAGE

The other Bristol town roads that were hit hard by flooding but were repaired by Thursday were:

•  Lower Notch Road, which was washed out near Hewitt Bridge and had fallen power lines blocking traffic.

•  Upper Notch Road, which had downed power lines obstructing traffic.

•  Carlstrom Road near the Stoplight Bridge, which was washed out.

•  The South Street Bridge, which was closed to vehicular traffic a year ago but is still used by pedestrians. One of its pillars was exposed due to strong waters plunging down the New Haven River. The pillar was reinforced, said Bouvier.

Route 17 near the Starksboro town line was closed during the day late last week but open at night.

Starksboro resident Bob Hall, who lives on the state road, said that during the storm the big culvert at Memorial Park was blocked by trees, causing Baldwin Creek to flood over Route 17. The rush of water collapsed part of the road.

The status of Route 17 was particularly important to organizers of the Green Mountain Stage Race — an annual, four-day bike race that usually features a race on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend that begins in Waitsfield, travels south on Route 100, traverses Route 125 to Middlebury, heads north up Route 116 and ends with a mountain climb up Route 17 to the Appalachian Gap. Obviously a race down Route 100 was out, but race organizer Gary Kessler on Thursday was making preparations to run the Sunday race on the west side of the Green Mountains.

At one point he was planning to start the race at Mount Abraham Union High School, but assistant race director Peter Oliver on Friday morning said the starting line was moved to the NRG Systems building in Hinesburg because Bristol town officials were wary of the race coming through their town. And the course was due to travel on Huntington Road to Route 17 in Starksboro and down to Route 116 and north again to Hinesburg.

Kessler said he had visited the closed portion of Route 17 and was sure it would be ready for bikers by Sunday.

Sue Minter, deputy secretary of transportation, was hopeful on Thursday that Route 17 would be ready for the estimated 775 bike racers.

“We’re very aware of the race … we know that we can get the road ready,” she said. “These events are not only wonderful for the racers themselves, but they actually stimulate a lot of tourist activity and we’re doing everything we can to keep those kinds of activities happening as long as they don’t affect our emergency response.”

Reporter Andrew Stein is at andrews@addisonindependent.com. 

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