In-house crews save money on road work

Town crews repair a culvert that collapsed on Nichols Road in Naugatuck earlier this month. –CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — The borough is saving tens of thousands of dollars by doing more road work in house, according to Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess.

This month, a Public Works crew completed repairs to a culvert on Nichols Road that collapsed about a month ago. Workers were paving the road when the milling machine went through and it started to collapse, Public Works Director Jim Stewart said. The corrugated metal pipes carrying Shattuck Brook under the road had rusted through.

Stewart obtain an emergency wetlands permit and town crews were able to replace the twin 42-inch pipes in about a week. Now, they just need to finish repaving the surface and install new guide rails.

In the past, the borough would have hired a contractor for the complicated work, which could cost around $100,000. Instead, it was able to use its own crew on regular time and about $25,000 worth of materials to make the repairs, Stewart said.

The borough has hired two new workers over the past two years to form a five-member construction team, which Hess calls the “A Team.”

The culvert replacement is about the fourth emergency job the town has been able to do in house since making the new hires, Hess said. Just before school started in August, crews repaired a 36-inch pipe that collapsed on Hillside Avenue when a Copes Waste Solutions truck fell into it, Stewart said.

Hess said he plans to hire one new road crew member each year he remains in office with the goal of having two emergency teams on hand. The crews also work on long-term maintenance projects, including repairing catch basins and drainage alongside newly paved roads.

Stewart said a second crew is needed to catch up on failing infrastructure. The borough has thousands of catch basins made of everything from stone to modern precast and concrete blocks.

“It’s a never ending battle,” he said.

Hess said the borough is paving more roads using the money it’s saving by not hiring outside contractors.

“You can see it when you go around town. We’re paving roads everywhere,” Hess said.

The borough increased its budget for road paving from the $250,000 level it had been at for the past 15 years to $2.5 million this year. At the same time, the borough decreased spending overall by $500,000.

“Instead of being behind the eight ball on storm water and sewer repairs, we can get ahead of the game in the longer term,” Hess said.

The last paving project of the season is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday on Spring Street. That project, which is being done by a contractor, is paid for in full by a state grant, Stewart said.

He said there are also a few driveway aprons and curbs to finish before the asphalt plants close for the year.

Stewart said he’s planning on continuing the fast pace of paving next year, depending on how much funding the borough gets from the state. He said he’s hoping the Board of Finance will continue to fund $1 million in paving each year to keep the roads in decent shape.

Although many of the main arteries were hit this year, Stewart said there’s many secondary roads in tough shape.