Future of Newton-Sparta Road expansion project unknown

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:28

    Andover — Residents and committee members alike expressed their distress at the possibility that the Newton-Sparta Road expansion project may not come to fruition. The project received federal grant approval in 2002. In 2012 the county must decide whether or not to proceed with the project, which is anticipated to cost approximately $25 million. The proposed roadway would require approval from three municipalities; stretching from Sparta, through Andover, and ending in Newton. Andover and Newton adopted resolutions for the project's approval but Sparta did not. Sparta cast their first dissenting vote in 2007 and their Environmental Commission has recently requested an environmental impact study, which could take an additional two years. Sparta nixed plans presented at a June 2011 Andover Township meeting that proposed jughandles in three locations, including Route 517 near Pope John High School, which Sparta’s Environmental Commission rejected. The county to date has invested $500,000 towards the project, money it will be required to repay should the project be halted. “As a township, are we going to just throw up our hands?” asked Rick Melfi, resident and Chairperson of Andover's Economic Development Committee. “It’s the most traveled road in Sussex County," said Melfi. "If we’re to discard this it’s ridiculous.” Committee members asked county officials if they could somehow push ahead with the project without Sparta's consent. County officials said there were no such options. Committee members plan to speak to members of the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders who will be voting on the issue on Nov. 30, imploring them to either stop or move forward with the project. They also encouraged members of the public to attend the freeholder meeting. In other business The DPW has temporarily recruited an employee from a different department to help chip debris from the fall storms. “There’s so much out,” said Committee Member Tom Walsh. “[The DPW is] working as fast as they can, and they’re overwhelmed right now." The DPW is also working to ensure the township drains are clear, Walsh said. The police department and DPW buildings will receive energy improvement grants through New Jersey Clean Energy. $3,411 will go to the police station and $9,941 to the DPW. The Greater Andover Senior Citizens Club chosen Committee Member Bob Smith as its next president.