It’s paving season again and New Fairfield’s Public Works Department is hard at work repairing Town roads that have fallen into disrepair. Once it becomes clear that plowing will no longer be required, the Department, under the leadership of Russ Louden, turns its attention to planning for road repair.
New Fairfield has just under 70 miles of Town roads. Normally planning begins the year before with a list of priority roads, which is presented at the yearly budget planning exercise that commences in January with budget workshops. At those workshops, Mr. Louden makes his request for funding for paving, backed up by the list of roads and his estimate of what the cost will be to pave them, and an estimate of the amount of state funding that will be available to supplement the funding from your taxes.
The exercise this year was a bit more complicated, since very little paving was done last year, as Public Works was necessarily focused on cleaning up our roadways in the aftermath of the May 15th storm. State and Town funding that had been set aside in the FY2017-18 budget for road repair had to be used before June 30th, as well as the funding in this year’s budget. Mr. Louden notes that after a rough start because of the weather, things are going well and we are on track to catch up with the lack of road repair last year and move ahead as anticipated.
Public Works began the season by focusing on Possum Drive, just up the hill from Margerie Reservoir. This area was a priority for two reasons. This area was last paved using NovaChip, a material that allowed faster repaving through application of a thinner layer of material for a lower price. Unfortunately, this material has not held up and cannot simply be milled and paved over. The roadbed has to be reclaimed before paving can begin.
In addition, drainage systems that had been installed when this development was built in the 1960’s were overgrown with tree roots, damaged, or deteriorated from age, causing water backup and drainage and icing problems on the road, which also caused the road to deteriorate faster than expected. Drainage systems had to be dug up and replaced with new piping. And new galvanized tops were put in place for better longevity. Because of the extensive work required, this project has taken several weeks, but should be complete, weather permitting, within the next week or two.
After finishing on Possum Drive, Public Works will likely tackle Shortwoods, one of New Fairfield’s most highly traveled roads. Because of the amount of traffic on Shortwoods, it has also deteriorated faster than expected. At the moment, it is not clear what the scope of work will be there until the condition of the bottom layer can be determined by Public Works working together with the contracted paving company. Mr. Louden would also like to finish up the last of the NovaChip roads – a few remain off Gillotti – before the end of this season and “get back on track to doing a normal 1.5 inch overlay soon to keep roads in good shape.”
The Town generally ends its paving season in mid -November when asphalt plants shut down and it is time to get ready for plowing season. Because of the complexity of the work on Possum Drive, not all roads identified this year or last will get attention. But once on the list, a road doesn’t fall off it. It just may slip a year. And roads not on the list may be added because of unexpected problems.
Mr. Louden says he is “trying to get back to basics on how we take care of our roads.” For some roads that require attention he may “get by with patches one year and then go back to barebones to do a thorough job the next – update drainage, replace rusted pipes with plastic” – and do a more extensive road repair the next.
– Khris Hall, Selectman