Area towns keeping pace with potholes and weather-related road repairs

By Lauri Voter - Staff Writer
Region - posted Thu., Mar. 24, 2011
Officials in some area towns say that potholes and weather-related damage is more extensive this year, than in others. Photos by Lauri Voter
Officials in some area towns say that potholes and weather-related damage is more extensive this year, than in others. Photos by Lauri Voter

Springtime showers bring spring flowers… and potholes.

The town of Ashford’s DPW Supervisor, Joseph Kalinowski describes a pothole as an occurrence that happens when “the pavement becomes loose, water gets into the holes and it freezes in the evening. That water thaws the next day, and when cars hit that loose asphalt, it starts coming out of the hole. That’s what a pothole is.”

According to Kalinowski, potholes must be fixed because of the loose pavement. “The sooner you can fix them, the better it is.  They can get deep, and it depends on traffic. Thoroughfares can become serious,” Kalinowski explained.

Kalinowski said his budget is holding up and that he runs a tight ship to keep pace with potholes as they occur. “We go out a couple of time a week when the weather is permitting,” he said.

In Ashford, some of the shoulders are soft, and will need more extensive repair that will require hot asphalt, which will not be available until the asphalt plants open later in the season.

Kalinowski keeps a close eye on his roads to monitor them for repair. “I know which roads they are and I try to get to those on a day-to-day basis,” he said. He prioritizes road work based on traffic use, with main thoroughfares getting first attention. He also relies on reports from school bus drivers, who travel all of Ashford’s roads. “They usually call my office and get word to me on where there’s a problem,” Kalinowski said.

Ashford’s DPW also gets calls from the public about road concerns, which is not necessarily to complain, but to advise of road conditions.

The town of Stafford is also out working on its roads.

“We’ve been patching temporarily with cold patch until the hot asphalt plant opens up in late April,” said Alan Wytas, superintendent of Stafford’s Public Works department. That plant is located in Palmer, Mass.  Stafford has money in its budget for patching and road repairs and plans to keep up with repairs as best as it can.

Wytas said that winter weather has taken its toll on Stafford’s roads this year. “There are a lot of frost heaves and a lot of roads broken up. Between rain and frost, it just broke up worse this year,” Wytas said, who explained that nearly 50 percent of the town’s roads are in bad shape.

Wytas and his crew prioritize patching and road repairs by resident feedback, starting with “the ones we get the most complaints on.”

Wytas explained that “we’ve been trying to keep up with the potholes. We’re waiting for the frost to go.”

In the town of Union, the DPW crew works year-round on road repairs.

“That is pretty much continuous. We address them as we have them,” said Union’s DPW Director, David D. Eaton.

Eaton doesn’t feel that there is any significant damage to roads in Union this year, as a result of the quantity of snow and rain. “I wouldn’t say damage. There were a lot of heaves in the roads,” Eaton said, but then explained that many frost heaves repair themselves as the frost goes out.

The town of Union relies on its own staff to do its pothole patching and road repairs. “All two of us,” joked Eaton, who said that Union has one full-time DPW employee and one three-quarter-time employee.

Figuring road work into its budget every year, the town of Union’s budget is sound. According to Eaton, long-term road work is also factored in, since some roads need patching, while others need more extensive repairs.

Eaton explained that Union prioritizes its road work based on several factors, including “traffic volume, last time work was done on it and the condition of the road.”

“A lot of time times, you’re better off doing work on the good roads so they don’t fall apart. You’ve got to keep the good roads good, and you still have to reconstruct the roads that are real bad. You have to balance it out and do continuous work on both,” Eaton said.

The town of Willington’s DPW Director, Lynn Nicholls, finds that roads are in particularly bad shape this year, “because of the frost. We’ve had an unusual two years,” Nicholls explained, referring to both the rain and the snow.

Nicholls has applied for grant monies to assist with road repairs. “We’ve applied for FEMA funding for Storm Benedict, and hopefully, we’ll get reimbursed,” Nicholls said. She is also trying to obtain additional funding to help with repairs needed due to flooding.

“We still do our normal maintenance as far as chip sealing,” said Nicholls.

The town of Willington prioritizes road repair by “worse first.”

“Sometimes complaints have a lot to do it,” Nicholls said, but for the most part, she said that that the priorities are based on the town’s own assessments of its roads.

Willington relies primarily on its town employees, but will hire out if necessary. “We’re a small crew, and a lot of times it easier to hire on someone, but if we can do it, we take care of it,” Nicholls said.

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