It’s no small task to keep the roadways of a community in good working order and to do so with an eye on the bottom line. Any highway surveyor can attest to that reality. But couple that with a population willing to invest in their roads and you’ve got a winning combination.
So said Town Administrator Michael Gagne during the February 28 meeting of the Finance Committee, who sat down with Barry Denham, Mattapoisett Highway Surveyor.
“We’ve had eight debt exclusions for road work,” Gagne. “…A lot of credit has to go to the community for having the foresight to invest in their roads.… Other towns are putting that issue to the side.”
Denham said that spending money on maintenance rather than rebuilding badly damaged roadways makes fiscal sense because it costs less.
Gagne said each year about $500,000 is set aside for roadwork, much of which comes from retiring debt. Added to that sum for specific projects are Chapter 90 funds, as well as funds raised from the sale of tax title properties. Collectively that sum stands at $6.1 million.
Denham discussed what’s on his department’s radar for road projects in the coming months, as well as some longer range planning. One project slated for spring 2018 is a repair to the drainage system located in the LeBaron Estates subdivision.
While the streets in the neighborhood have long been public ways, the drainage system servicing the area is located on private property. Easements had been planned for the Town’s access to the drainage system, but somehow since 1964 those easements had never been transferred to the Town.
“At the last town meeting we approved that,” Denham said. “It didn’t cost us anything…. The upgrades will eliminate the flooding issues in there.”
Larger, more involved projects were also discussed for the FY19 construction season.
Denham said asphalt overlays to a section of Acushnet Road were needed at an estimated cost of $310,000. Engineering and design plans for Main, Water, and Beacon Streets would cost about $150,000 he said, with engineering for the Randall Bridge coming in at $100,000. Other projects discussed were repairs to lower Pearl Street and repairs to a bridge at Tinkham Pond. Overall estimates bring the price tag just north of $900,000.
Denham also took a look at projects scoped out for the FY20 construction season: construction of the Randall Bridge, $650,000; overlay to River Road and Crystal Spring Road, $500,000; and continued planning for Main, Water and Beacon Streets, $50,000.
The good news for the town on this group of projects is that Denham has already secured a $500,000 grant for the bridge work, with another $228,000 of Chapter 90 funding in the waiting.
Denham said it was important to take care of what he termed “our long roads” – River, Crystal Spring, and Acushnet Roads, for instance – with the application of asphalt overlays for “short money.” He said, by comparison, the village streets were expensive to upgrade.
“My goal is to do two miles of road a year for short money,” said Denham, “[While] picking away at the more expensive roads.”
On the Highway Department five-year plan for capital equipment needs, Denham included a new road grader on the list. The equipment currently in service was purchased in 1948. He estimated a new one would come in around $185,000.
“We have 6.5 miles of unpaved roadways and parking lots,” Denham told the committee members, which require attention twice annually.
Denham is also asking the Capital Planning Committee to consider a surf rake for beach cleaning, a tool much needed on the public beach located adjacent to the YMCA camp. Also needed, Denham said, are a sidewalk plow, a street sweeper/catch basin cleaner, a five-ton roller, and a drain cleaner. The estimated total for all items on the vehicle and equipment list is $671,113.
Other Highway Department needs and expenses Denham discussed were the repairs and upgrades to the town barn and office. He noted the need to upgrade bathroom facilities, insulate exterior walls, replace windows, and make improvements to the storage shed totaling $344,500. He noted there are some funds that have already been appropriated towards building repairs.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Finance Committee is scheduled for March 8 at 6:30 pm in the Town Hall conference room at which time Dale Barrows, Board of Health Agent, is scheduled to attend to discuss the transfer station and community nurse. The Finance Committee will also meet again on March 14 and 22 for continued talks with department heads.
Mattapoisett Finance Committee
By Marilou Newell