Should Shelton spend more on fixing roads? 'The potholes are huge,' says one alderman

The Board of Aldermen authorized spending $400,000 on road repairs and paving through bonding at its most recent meeting.

Mayor Mark Lauretti said the $400,000 would primarily be used to pave lower Bridgeport Avenue, near the Trumbull border, and Blueberry Lane in Huntington.

The city was down to only $8,000 in its road-paving budget before the new funding was approved.

The proposal was unanimously approved but started a discussion about what roads are being paved.

Aldermanic President John Anglace said the city has spent $11.5 million on roads since 2008, with $11 million of that coming through three referendum approvals by voters.

“We appreciate people approving these referendums,” he said.

Keeping the city’s 200 miles of roads in good condition is an ongoing and challenging task, Anglace said, and all roads that need fixing can’t be done at once.

He had asked Public Works Director Paul DiMauro to provide a breakdown of how the last $5 million from the most recent referendum, in late 2012, was spent.

Anglace said he didn’t want to consider new road funding until these details were provided.

That document was received and distributed to the aldermen. He said he is hoping to get more information from DiMauro in the near future.

“It is our responsibility to let people know what we do with their money,” Anglace said.

‘Potholes are huge’

Alderman Jack Finn, the board’s only Democrat, complained roads he recommended for paving up to four years ago have never been touched, especially in the White Hills section he represents.

“Take a ride on some of the roads that I’ve suggested,” Finn said. “The potholes are huge.”

That prompted Mayor Mark Lauretti to say while aldermen could be expected “to carry the flag” for fixing roads in their districts, the city uses a deliberative process for choosing what roads will be upgraded.

“We do things with a lot of thought and that are fact-based,” said Lauretti, a Republican.

The city can’t afford to spend money like crazy like some other government entities, he said, and that’s “why we are on solid financial ground.”

According to Anglace, what roads will be improved is evaluated annually by DiMauro, Lauretti and the Board of Aldermen’s Street Committee.

Alderman John Papa said a lot of roads around the city need work, and main roads get the most attention and then secondary roads.

Finn said streets such as Barry Road, Birchbank Road, Londmeadow Road, Stendahl Drive, Vista Drive and Webster Drive are in dire need of attention.

It’s costly for public works crews to constantly fix potholes because roads aren’t been paved when needed, Finn said.

Different fixes

Anglace noted roads can be upgraded in different ways — some are completely rebuilt through milling and paving, some have only sections rebuilt, and others may receive more targeted actions such as crack-sealing and road-leveling (skid paving).

Most of the work is done by public works staff but some outside contractors are used as well.

Anglace said potholes are repaired year-round (with cold-patch in the winter, and hot-patch the rest of the year).

“Winter always brings much deterioration to the roads and it’s like starting over again each spring, assessing winter’s damage and then repairing roads and curbing damaged by the plows,” he said.

Of the most recent $5 million allocated for roads, the breakdown on how it was spent is as follows: $1.6 million on asphalt, $1.4 million on milling and paving, $1 million on chip sealing, and almost $900,000 on skid-paving.

The most expensive milling-and-paving operations were on Research Drive ($299,000), Old Stratford Road ($190,000), part of Armstrong Road ($188,000), and part of Bridgeport Avenue ($180,000).

Referendum possible

In a later interview, Lauretti said city officials may have to ask voters to approve more money for road work in another referendum, based on the need.

Lauretti said the city focused more attention on other infrastructure needs during the past few decades, such as schools and the water treatment facility and downtown, and perhaps now it’s time to concentrate on roads.

“They always need to do more because there will always be issues with roads,” he said.

Anglace said the ideal goal from the Public Works Department’s perspective would be to do 20% of the city’s roads every year. The city does far less than that.

He said public works now is doing an adequate job, but more always needs to be done. The issue is money.

“They are addressing the roads,” Anglace said. “All the roads are not going to be addressed at the same time.”