BEACON FALLS — Representatives from Angelo Benedetti, Inc. met with town residents Tuesday to explain the benefits of their asphalt recycling system.
The Joint Boards of Selectman and Finance hosted the meeting to clear up misunderstandings surrounding the equipment, which voters rejected buying by 66 votes as part of a $5.1 million item for road repairs on a bond-package referendum. The price tag would have been the same, regardless of whether the town purchased the equipment or paved roads the conventional way.
Board of Finance member Lou Krepinevich first suggested buying the equipment after First Selectman Susan Cable asked board members to think outside the box to come up with ways to tighten the budget.
After some research, Krepinevich contacted Benedetti and got a proposal to buy a used Re-HEAT machine for $1.5 million. The two-year old machine would be brought back up to original standards. Operational costs, including fuel, cyclogen (an asphalt additive), regular maintenance and repairs, would be $50,000 per year. In addition, the town would build a steel building to house the equipment for $70,000, putting the total relative costs of the purchase at $1.72 million.
The cost would include a three-year contract with Benedetti, during which time the company would repave 15 miles of roads and train town staff to use the equipment. After the three years, the town could sell the equipment back to the company for $500,000.
By comparison, paving 15 miles of roadway the conventional way would cost $3.3 million, about $220,000 per mile, according to Krepinevich. Beacon Falls would save $2.15 million over three years, he said. That cost was based on recent newspaper articles about road repairs in nearby towns, including Bethel and Fairfield.
Benedetti representatives Al Benedetti, president of the company, and Joe Asher, business development director, explained how the equipment worked.
The Re-HEAT system consists of two vehicles, each about 40 feet long and 10 feet wide. The total working space the system uses is 200 feet. The first furnace unit heats damaged pavement to about 350 to 400 degrees. The second recycling unit uses blades to lift up the top two to four inches of asphalt and mixes it with an asphalt emulsion to restore it to its original state. The machine then spits the rejuvenated asphalt back out and flattens it with a roller.
Drivers can use the new road ten minutes after the process is complete, representatives said. They said the asphalt is compacted more than in conventional paving and the thermal blend of the hot base and hot mix allows for less moisture to get into the mixture, making the surface last longer. They also said the heaters are individually controlled, so paving could avoid manholes and other obstructions in the road.
The machines can turn to pave curved roads, but they could not do small cul-de-sacs under 130 feet in diameter, Benedetti representatives said. The machines would also not work on roads that don’t have an asphalt surface or are too steep a grade.
Jim Galligan, Beacon Falls’ town engineer, toured the town with Benedetti representatives and concluded the machines could be used on 70 percent of the town’s roads, according to Cable. Galligan wasn’t at the meeting to comment.
As far as maintenance goes, Benedetti said the one part that may need to be replaced after a few years is the teeth that lift up the asphalt. He said he would include a spare set as part of the price.
About 40 residents who attended the informational meeting had a lot of concerns, including how the equipment would be moved and the fact that most of the towns’ roads aren’t asphalt, but sand, oil and chip seal.
Benedetti said the company would transport the equipment to Beacon Falls, but once there it would have to move on its own. The equipment moves at 3 to 7 miles per hour. They said that roadwork should be planned to be as efficient as possible and machines could be parked on the side of the road overnight.
Beacon Falls resident Steve Knapik said, at that rate, it would take half a day to get to a site across town. He was concerned that parking on the sides of roads would tear up lawns.
Benedetti said that while the equipment wouldn’t work on roads whose surface was chip seal, it wouldn’t disturb the base. If there is not enough asphalt on the surface of the road, the machines can supplement additional material, Benedetti said. He said some town roads may need total base reconstruction, but the machines could be used as a band-aid until the town could afford to do more serious repairs.
Some residents asked for references from other people who have used the equipment. Benedetti said he would be happy to provide some. Benedetti said the previous owner of the equipment was a contractor whose business went belly-up in the bad economy.
Benedetti said the company has a vested interest in making the process work in Beacon Falls as a showcase for the equipment in New England. The company currently has projects in Ohio and the west coast, but is hoping to expand to the east.
Asher said the town could possibly lease the equipment to nearby towns, creating a revenue stream to offset the cost of the bond. He estimated the town could charge $13,000 per mile.
Air surveys conducted by an independent research firm around the machines found emissions to be well beneath permissible limits, according to a summery of the survey provided by Benedetti representatives. The equipment requires six people to operate. Beacon Falls currently employs seven people in Public Works.
Resident Dave Rybinski spoke out against the equipment, saying the figures presented were wrong. He said there would be patches on cul-de-sacs where the machine could not work, which would split over the years. With the budget heading to a second referendum, he said the town could not afford the equipment.
“This town does not set priorities,” Rybinski said.
Rich Minnick said the equipment wouldn’t be able to handle the six-inch frost heaves Beacon Falls accumulates during the winter.
Jeff Smith asked whether the town could get a demo of how the equipment worked before deciding to purchase it.
“Prove that it will do what you say it will,” he said.
Benedetti said the equipment would be too expensive to transfer to Beacon Falls for a half-mile of road, but that he’d be happy to entertain people in Ohio or elsewhere in New England where the equipment was being used.
Liz Falzone asked how the equipment would affect insurance and safety. Cable responded that she had asked the insurance company about it, but with the town currently negotiating with a new insurance broker, they had not yet gotten an answer.
Art Daigle said his biggest concern was that at $1,600 per day for fuel, the town couldn’t afford it. He said the equipment may work great on flat, straight roads in the Midwest, but not in New England.
“I don’t think Beacon Falls is the right place,” he said. If the equipment was that great, other towns would already have it, he said.
Former First Selectman Leonard D’Amico said voters rejected the item in the first bond package, so he couldn’t understand why it was being brought up again.
He said he was in favor of repairing the roads, but against buying the machine.
“I think we can do well without it,” D’Amico said. “It’s no sale for me.”
If the item goes to referendum again, he said he would do everything in his power to defeat it.
After the meeting, Selectman Dominick Sorrentino said he was digesting all the new information and hadn’t made a decision about whether the equipment was a good idea.
He said he thought the meeting went well and all the questions were answered by the company.
Selectman Michael Krenesky said the meeting was calmer than expected, but he heard a lot of concerns about the road base. He also said the Re-Heat process had never been used more than twice on a road. He felt the town needs to start a road maintenance program.
“We can’t just keep doing band-aids,” Krenesky said.
Krepenevich said a lot of good questions were brought up at the meeting.
“I would not be promoting this one iota if I didn’t think it would save the town money,” he said.
While other departments have a lot of regulations about how things should be done, the roads are one area where the town can explore different possibilities, he said.
He said, if Beacon Falls rejects the equipment, another town in Connecticut will buy it and make Beacon Falls look like fools for not jumping on the opportunity when they had the chance.
The Board of Selectmen has not yet decided whether it will pursue the equipment in another referendum. Cable said she would let people know what the next step is after the board discusses the situation.