Road maintenance falls behind in borough

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A pothole is visible on North Main Street in Naugatuck. The borough has fallen behind on road maintenance as resources are tight. –RA ARCHIVE
A pothole is visible on North Main Street in Naugatuck. The borough has fallen behind on road maintenance as resources are tight. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — James Stewart, director of public works, had some unwelcome — if unsurprising — news last week for the Board of Finance.

“Our roads are starting to really fall apart,” Stewart said.

To maintain local roads in ideal condition, the borough should be spending about $1.2 million annually to mill and pave six miles of road per year, not counting money spent to completely rebuild roads or conduct drainage repairs, Stewart calculated.

Under that plan, each road in the borough would be repaved every 20 years. Once a road goes 30 to 40 years without repairs, it generally has to be rebuilt, Stewart said.

Officials cannot remember when that kind of money was spent on roads. For at least the past seven years, the borough has spent $250,000 annually, which equates to 1.25 miles per year, or a 96-year paving cycle. The money spent has come from the state’s Local Capital Improvement Program.

Although resources are tight, Stewart is pushing officials to incrementally increase funding every year for paving. He requested $400,000 for next fiscal year, and the finance board tentatively agreed to fund $300,000.

That allocation includes one key element — $40,000 for a consultant to come up with a pavement management and preservation plan that would recommend to the public works department which roads to address, how, and in what order.

“It will convince the finance board where they should be and it will show them what’s going to happen if they don’t, and how quickly,” Stewart said.

The borough does not have a comprehensive plan in place now and will go out to bid for a consultant to complete it by this fall, Stewart said. The consultant could evaluate 25 percent of the town every year afterward, at a cost of $5,000 per year, Stewart said.

Dealing with the worst roads first is not necessarily the best approach, Stewart said. He would prefer to save roads that are on the verge of collapse before dealing with those that already need rebuilding.

A study done in January in Northborough, Mass., revealed that 27 percent of the town’s roads needed base rehabilitation and 33 percent needed structural improvement, apart from the roads that needed simple maintenance. Stewart said he would not be surprised to hear similar results for the borough.

The borough plans to repave sections of East Waterbury Road, City Hill Street and Mulberry Street this year. Last year, part of Andrew Mountain Road was completely reconstructed and Old Firehouse Road and part of Rubber Avenue were paved. Crews were scheduled to pave Andrew Avenue, but changed their plan after flooding necessitated drainage repairs, Stewart said.

“I’m trying to concentrate on the main roads because with a 100-year paving period, I can’t spend money on little roads any more,” Stewart said.

About $10,000 of the finance board’s allocation will be spent sealing cracks so water does not infiltrate them and freeze in the winter, tearing up roads, Stewart said.

If the borough continues its current level of funding, officials will likely have to bond between $10 million and $15 million in a decade — the same amount Stewart is asking to spend, only paid back with interest, he said.

In addition to residents, the borough’s roads are frequently used by drivers from more rural towns who come to the borough for services, Mayor Robert Mezzo said. A proposal in the state legislature has the potential to increase the capital improvement allocation to the borough, Mezzo said.

“I think you can look at any former industrial community in the Valley, assess the condition of the roads and determine that communities haven’t had the resources to adequately maintain them,” Mezzo said. “There is no magical solution to addressing all the roads in our community, some of which have been neglected for many years. I think in some cases, it requires a solution larger than Naugatuck.”