Mud challenges local road crews
By Katy Savage
Some town officials are calling this mud season the worst ever.
Killington Town Manager Chet Hagenbarth said eight roads were “borderline passable” over the weekend.
“They were the worst I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Hagenbarth said. ”It was so unusual how bad it was.”
Hagenbarth almost got his car stuck on Round Robin Road. He said there’s no option but to get through it.
“It’s an absolute swamp,” he said. “There were some that were absolutely horrendous.”
He said frost is underneath the mud, trapping water and not letting it escape.
“One of the issues is we had a very cold winter, very low snow cover,” he said. “The frost is still there a foot or two down. The water can’t escape and it turns to slop.” Hagenbarth said the highway crew worked 12 hours on Saturday, March 19.
“We’re doing OK and we’re getting caught up,” Hagenbarth said on Monday, March 21. “Our life is mud.”
Ludlow Town Manager Scott Murphy said a police cruiser responding to a call got stuck on Town Farm Road over the weekend and needed to be towed. Another police officer responded to the incident.
“Some of the roads became impassable, no matter what we did, we couldn’t fix them,” Murphy said.
Murphy said the highway crew worked Saturday and Sunday. They placed so much stone that they ran out on Sunday and had to pick up more in Wallingford on Monday morning.
But in some cases, “stone wasn’t cutting it either,” Murphy said.
Murphy was hopeful colder weather in the forecast would allow the road crews to groom the roads.
“It’s a short (mud) season if it comes out hard like this,” he said. “If it’s not plowing one weekend it’s mud season the next.”
In Bridgewater, residents pitched in to help the roadcrew over the weekend.
Jeff Bridge and Mike Olmstead, who both own excavation businesses, took their own equipment on the roads.
Bridge and Olmstead hauled stone and graded the roads while the town crew trucked in hard to make it passable for people.
“I guess they were really getting stuck,” said Mike’s wife Lisa Olmstead. “It’s good to look out for your neighbors. That’s why we live in Vermont.”
The school buses in the Slate Valley Unified School District avoided the backroads in Castleton and picked students up on the main roads Monday, March 21.
“Pencil Mill Road’s condition specifically is problematic with the mud,” Superintendent Brooke Olsen-Farrell said.
While most local towns struggled to clear the roads, John Champion, the road foreman in Rochester, said he was lucky.
“We’ve had a couple of bad spots we’ve been able to repair,” he said. “It hasn’t been anything like other towns we’ve heard of.”
Champion said the road crew in Rochester worked in the mornings to fix spots they thought would be bad by the time the sun warmed the roads.
“If we leave them alone that’s sometimes the best thing we can do,” Champion said.
Prosper Road in Woodstock was closed on Monday to through traffic.
Town Manager Bill Kerbin said the roads are the worst they’ve been in a while, but he said no residents had complained as of Monday. He said some are accustomed to Vermont’s unofficial “fifth season.”
“Especially native Vermonters know, this is mud season and some years are worse than others,” he said.