Berlin Residents May Have To Wait For Street Work

BERLIN — Wondering whether it might be better to kill the proverbial two birds with one stone, the Berlin Mayor and Council may delay a resurfacing project till the town can afford to address stormwater issues on the road as well.

“Can we afford to do it all?” asked Mayor Gee Williams.

The plan to resurface Washington St. has been in the works for several weeks, but a number of new options gave the council pause during their meeting Monday.

Town Administrator Tony Carson informed the assembly that changes in potential costs and work compelled him to draw up three different possible timetables for resurfacing the street.

The first option would be to finish roadwork this year. Adding new materials to the road, a recommendation made by Public Works Director Mike Gibbons, would add an additional cost but extend the street’s active lifespan significantly.

“It’s going to about double the life of the pavement,” Gibbons told the council.

Finishing the project this year would require drawing money out of the town’s contingency fund, however. The exact amount, said Carson, is hard to gauge right now, but could be in the $55,000 range.

“We just won’t know that number until the work starts,” he said.

The second alternative Carson presented would be to do the project piecemeal, half this year and half the next. Doing so would reduce upfront costs to the town, spreading the hit over two fiscal years. However, Carson advised against splitting the work.

Carson worried that stretching the project over two years could cause unwanted disruption to residents, problems if multiple contractors are needed and other issues that derive from complicating the process.

The third option discussed would be to delay the entire project until next year, allowing the town time to budget ahead, which would eliminate dipping into the contingency fund.

While this alternative had several strong points, Williams expressed a worry that putting the project off would be a nuisance to residents on Washington St.

“We’re trying to take the worst cases first … We can’t just let the streets go,” he said.

Resident Pete Cosby asked only that the council clarify exactly when it was planning on going ahead with the resurfacing. In anticipation of the project, said Cosby, he had hastily attended to last-minute yard work, expecting construction to start any day.

“I’ve been on pins and needles since the beginning of August,” he said.

Cosby added that he had rushed to help a neighbor with similar issues.

“We’re doing all of this on a crisis basis,” he said.

After so much hectic preparation, Cosby was unhappy to hear that a final date for resurfacing was still up in the air, though he was placated somewhat when he learned sidewalk work for the area is still on schedule.

Besides the condition of the road, stormwater problems also have residents worried, to the point where many asked that the town deal with replacing old pipes and drains under Washington St. while the road is being resurfaced.

Councilwoman Lisa Hall also felt that it would be worthwhile to deal with issues under the road as well as those above it and remarked that repaving while ignoring old piping would only a half-measure.

“No more Band-Aids,” she asserted.

Councilman Troy Purnell suggested holding off on making a decision until the exact cost of replacing and repairing old or damaged piping under Washington St. could be determined, a motion that was unanimously accepted.