Old wall holds up state route… barely

DOT has plans to fix Rte. 82 bulge, but not for 6 weeks

ANCRAM—The saying “You can’t get there from here” may soon apply to the Ancram hamlet if a retaining wall supporting state Route 82 isn’t fixed soon.

The wall is on the south side of Route 82 behind and west of the Simons General Store. The store, which was built in 1874, sits at the crossroads of state Route 82 and county Route 7.

The top of the wall is supposed to be level with the road surface above, but part of the wall’s crown is now bowed out and dips below the road surface.

The store is owned by the Ancram Preservation Group (APG) a private not-for-profit corporation devoted to, among other things, “promoting and advocating the architectural, economic, cultural and historic vitality of the Ancram Community through historic preservation.”

The retaining wall is made of field stone and mortar and is estimated by APG President Christopher “Kit” White to date back to the late 19th century.

Gerald Fultz, an APG board member, has been measuring and photographing the movement of the wall for about a year. Mr. Fultz, who also serves as the town’s volunteer grant writer, told the Town Board at its July 16 meeting, that last winter the wall measured 8-feet from the crown to the ground, then when measured July 16, the height from the crown to the ground was 7-feet 3/5-inches. Mr. Fultz estimated that when the wall stood straight, it was probably about 8 ½-feet high.

During that same time frame, the top of the wall has tilted out another 2 5/8-inches from its base.

Mr. Fultz also told the board that “significant cracks” are visible in the wall and said, when “you get that much movement, someone from [the state Department of Transportation] needs to look at this.”

Reached by phone this week, APG President White told The Columbia Paper that his group first noticed that the wall was leaning and reported it to DOT through Town Supervisor Art Bassin three years ago.

Correspondence with DOT has ramped up over the last year due to the wall’s increased bowing or “coning” out from the road bed.

At one point two engineers who inspected the wall noted that a tree was the only thing holding the wall up, according to an October 2014 email provided by Mr. Fultz, who said by phone that DOT had promised to repair the wall by last summer, then again before winter of last year.

Just last week DOT Resident Engineer Dawn Arnold wrote in an email to Mr. Fultz and others, saying, “We went to see the wall Monday [July 13] and observed the condition. From our assessment it appears that it should be okay till our project begins in a few weeks. We will continue to monitor. I’ll plan on going out two times per week till the project begins just to check on movement starting Monday.”

Part of the wall was reconstructed back in the 1950s with a series of pre-cast concrete logs that notch together like Lincoln logs, Mr. White explained, noting that there are now “big separations between the members” due to the leaching of water. He said “little sink holes” now exist along the side of the road.

Mr. White said that the APG’s concern is not that the wall collapse would damage the store, which has been up for sale for several years, but that it will cause the closure of one or both lanes of Route 82 which will have “serious” consequences for the county.

But the DOT’s fix for the failing wall is problematic to the APG, which has been working with an engineer for quite a while to get a septic system installed on the store property.

The DOT plans to install a berm, what it describes as creating “a sloped fill that covers part of the existing wall” and would proceed past the wall three-feet from the guard rail. A section of the stone wall will be cut and removed.

The plan is ‘alarming” to the APG because the berm will jut out onto the Simons General Store parcel, which is already only a fraction of an acre, and limit where the new onsite sewage processing system can be located.

Having a septic system will contribute to the groups’ ability to sell the store. The APG signed a release within the last month permitting the DOT to go on the property and on Monday, stakes were set marking the state right of way, according to Mr. White, who said he has emailed the DOT that plan is not acceptable. He has not received a response nor has he heard exactly when the DOT plans to start the project or how long it will take.

DOT Public Information Officer Gina M. DiSarro said via email that, “NYSDOT anticipates the work will begin in the next six weeks.” She added that the agency “does its best to take a community’s concern into account for our projects, and will consider any suggestions that balance… [DOT] criteria in a reasonable manner.”

In other road matters at the July Town Board meeting, Supervisor Bassin discussed renewed concerns about the intersection in the hamlet.

Last month Ancram Fire Chief David Boice reported that a “monstrous RV” had gotten stuck while trying to make a right turn from Route 82 westbound onto Route 7 heading northeast. Such oversized vehicles also have difficulty making a left turn from Route 7 onto Route 82 headed southeast.

The fire company is called out each time this happens to direct traffic until the vehicle is dislodged. The chief suggested road signs be installed warning such vehicles against making either turn.

Mr. Bassin said that more needs to be done to improve the turning radius there. He said he had also heard from Ancram Mill officials that slow-moving vehicles exiting the mill are at risk of being hit by oncoming traffic travelling too fast. The supervisor said he has again voiced concerns to state DOT, suggesting that the speed limit through the hamlet be lowered to 15 mph. He said he was told there was not enough traffic nor have there been enough accidents there to warrant a lowered limit.

Town resident and business owner Donna Hoyt said the state would not lower the speed limit because Route 82 is a truck route. She said the town should purchase the “house on the triangle” and “take the initiative.”

Mr. Bassin mentioned that the town may be able to buy the Tinsmith house for $15,000 and asked Town Highway Superintendent Jim MacArthur, if that were the case, could the town do the work there to improve the turning radius. Mr. Bassin said the town would have to get state and county approval but “it shouldn’t be that hard a project.”

Mr. MacArthur laughed and noted, “We could do it, but they’re not going to let us.”

The next regular town board meeting is August 20 at 7 p.m.

To contact Diane Valden email

 

The intersection of State Route 82 and County Route 7 has undergone some sight distance improvement, but complaints about the turning radius and speed persist.  Photo by Scott Langley

The intersection of State Route 82 and County Route 7 has undergone some sight distance improvement, but complaints about the turning radius and speeding persist.
Photo by Scott Langley

Pool is cool and it’s free The Ancram Pool is having a banner summer with attendance running at three times the normal amount of swimmers. Among them last Sunday were Mia Camaj, 6, and her mother, Kristina Camaj, both residents of Ancram, pictured in the water with a pair of legs coming in for a landing. The credit for this aquatic surge goes to a new local fund set up for donations that makes admission to the pool free for everyone. Photo by Scott Langley

Pool is cool and it’s free
The Ancram Pool is having a banner summer with attendance running at three times the normal amount of swimmers. Among them last Sunday were Mia Camaj, 6, and her mother, Kristina Camaj, both residents of Ancram, pictured in the water with a pair of legs coming in for a landing. The credit for this aquatic surge goes to a new town fund set up for donations that makes admission to the pool free for everyone. The fund also provides scholarships to the Ancram Kids Camp. To donate to the 2015 Swim Free fund, make out a check to Ancram Kids Camp & Pool and send it to Ancram Town Hall, 1416 County Route 7, Ancram 12502. Photo by Scott Langley

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