Divvying up the state Chapter 90 funds for roadway projects evenly between the city’s six wards isn’t as simple as picking a stretch of road to pave in each section of the city.
Monday night, the City Council’s Public Works Subcommittee discussed a motion made by Ward 5 Councillor Al Fiore requesting that the Chapter 90 funds be used evenly between wards. Typically, the city gets about $1 million per year from the state for road improvement projects.
Water and Sewer Superintendent Don Ciaramella appeared before the subcommittee to talk about how the city has shifted the focus of road paving projects in recent years to making sure they are done in conjunction with underground water, sewer and utilities infrastructure projects. “I have reservations about paving over any old utilities,” said Ciaramella.
He said if a water main breaks under a newly paved street, crews will have to dig it up to repair the mains. “People are going to be, like, ‘These guys don’t know what they are doing; we just got a new street,’ and it’s just disheartening,” he said. “Right now, we are just trying to do as many water mains as we possibly can.”
Ciaramella noted that it’s only been in recent years that the city has turned its focus on replacing its 107 miles of aging water main infrastructure. In the past decade, he said, the city has replaced about four miles of the mains. “Prior to that, there was a lot of nothing; you can quantify the water main replacements in footage prior to that,” Ciaramella said.
While the focus is on fixing major areas of concerns and paving those areas, Ciaramella said his department is cognizant of trying to spread the larger projects out throughout the city as much as it can. “I have areas I really want to do, and I’ve asked National Grid to do a gas trench,” he said. “We have one right now on Ambrose [Street] that has a gas trench and pretty soon will have a water trench, so now we have two trenches, but we are going to pave it this year. We shouldn’t have to go back to that street because the gas is new, the water will be new and we’re going to pave it.”
In assessing the areas for underground utility replacements and paving, Ciaramella said the city also has to take drainage into account. “That’s the other sticking point,” he said. “You go to a street and you finally get the gas replaced, you get the water replaced and the drainage is marginal at best, or there isn’t any.”
Even with those caveats in place, Ciaramella said there will be a number of streets paved in the city this year, and plans are being drawn up for areas that will see water main and paving projects next year. “We’re going to do as much as we can, as fast as we can, but we have to make sure we are not putting new asphalt on top of utilities they are going to be digging up,” he said.
The Public Works Subcommittee voted to put Fiore’s motion on file, meaning the City Council will take no immediate action on it.