Road repaving: A long ‘to do’ list

A list of 30 roads “considered for paving in fiscal year 2018-19” was put before the selectmen as part of the highway department’s budget presentation.

“What happened to Barrack Hill?” Selectwoman Barbara Manners asked at one point during the discussion of budgets and road repairs on Tuesday, Feb. 6.

“Barrack Hill is on my wish list,” public works Director Peter Hill said. “I have a list with 30 roads on it. We’re doing the worst of that list.”

The town budget shows a separate line for “roads, drainage, ADA infrastructure,” and a bulk of that goes to road reconstruction — with paving done mostly by contractors, although the town crew does the drainage and other preparatory work. The budget shows $1,460,000 spent in 2016-17, and an appropriation of $1,840,000 for the current 2017-18 year — the same number requested in the coming 2018-19 year.

Back in 2014-15, the finance board and selectmen managed to move the roughly $2 million a year in road work from the capital budget — where it was paid for with borrowing and cost more, over time — into the annual operating budget, where it is paid directly from that year’s taxes. The allocation from a new budget begins on July 1, and some of the money is spent from midsummer into the fall until it gets too cold for repaving, and the remainder of a year’s allocation is spent in the spring and early summer — up through the end of the fiscal year, on June 30.

Among the problems are that work sometimes waits until the new money doesn’t kicks in on July 1, and the work schedule is somewhat at the mercy of the big paving contractors, firms that have many customers and their own priorities.

“Last year, when we were doing Old Branchville Road, they were working until dark,” Hill said. “A mile and half, and they only brought six trucks!

“I said, ‘Why’d they send six trucks, they should have had 11!’ They’re just thinking about the dollar figure.”

The reality is there’s a lot of demand for the contractors during the warmer months.

“All the towns in the area use Tilcon or O&G,” Hill said. “They’re just out there trying to please everybody.”

He added, “I’ve told them we spend a lot of money and you should be treating us better.”

“We just probably need to look at efficiency and how we get roads done,” Selectman Steve Zemo said.

Hill said he has done some shopping around.

“We’ve reached out to some contractors other than Tilcon. Everyone was just so busy, we couldn’t get them into town,” Hill said.

The roads listed in the budget book as “considered for paving” in 2018-19 — on the “wish list” Hill hopes to get done — are Barrack Hill Road, Bennetts Farm Road (partial, Route 7 to Knollwood Road), Blue Ridge Road, Circle Drive, Cooper Hill Road, Craigmoor Road South and North, Dowling Drive, Finch Drive, Flat Rock Drive, Holmes Road, Indian Cave Road, Kiln Hill Road, Lantern Drive, Little Ridge Road, Longview Drive, Mimosa Circle, Ned’s Lane, Ned’s Mountain Road (partial), Nursery Road, Old Mill Road, Olmstead Lane, Regan Road, Riverside Drive, Ridgebury Road, Sarah Bishop Road, Stony Hill Road, Stony Hill Terrace, Tackora Trail, Twin Ridge Road, and Wilton Road East.