Byram residents protest Route 605 extension plans

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:53

Byram - It was close to standing room only at last week's Byram Town Council meeting when West Brookwood residents, potentially effected by a proposed expansion of Route 605, voiced their concerns about the plan, as well as the lack of community input into the planning process. Some of the more than 30 residents in attendance said they were worried that the area's needs and concerns will not be a part of the process, because the council had failed to appoint someone from the community to be part of a county committee charged with looking at the proposed options. The county is studying the possibility of expanding the county road, which travels from Sparta to Stanhope. Out of the six original proposals, the one currently under study positions the Route 605 off-ramp directly over both lanes of Route 206 and ending just 400 feet south of Acorn Street. This proposal would effect several West Brookfield residents directly. One possible scenario would be the confiscation of private property to be used for the off-ramp. Another solution calls for the placement of a heavily trafficked off-ramp close to several homes. Blevis Ford, who lives in the area, told the council he is very concerned about the location of the project as well as the process. "This puts it right on West Brookfield's doorstep. Actually, over our heads," said Ford. "This process has been flawed because it did not include us." In a letter received by the council in July, the county requested that the municipality name representatives to serve in a countywide committee charged with fine-tuning the proposed expansion of the county road. Byram's group was to consist of a town council member as well as residents and business owners potentially effected by the project. During the meeting last week, West Brookfield residents charged the council with not doing enough to gather "stakeholders" from all the effected communities. As a result, they said, no one from their area was officially included. Township Manager Greg Poff dismissed the criticism, saying the council had tried to get the local community involved. "We tried to get people to participate. We did ask that people come forward," said Poff. He said the process is still in its early stages and the project may not even come to fruition. "This is a county project," explained Poff. "There is no final voting on this project. It is now the county's job to look at this and make recommendations. It has not been approved. It may not even happen," he added. Despite Poff's assurances, some of the concerned citizens who attended the meeting said they did not want to take any chances. "It is early enough in the process," said Ford. "This is the time people should get involved. It is not a done deal. But later on they will say, where have you been on this?"