Southington councilors debate over potholes, road maintenance

Southington councilors debate over potholes, road maintenance

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SOUTHINGTON — A Republican town councilor said some local roads are in the worst condition he’s ever seen and wants road maintenance made a higher priority.

The Democratic chairman of the council agreed that the roads are in bad shape following a hard winter but that repair and upkeep are top priorities.

At a council meeting Monday, Republican Michael Riccio listed several east side roads that he said were the worst he’s ever seen.

“Our roads are absolutely deplorable. We can’t continue with the potholes,” he said. “Last week in one day I had to replace three tires on my car.”

While town crews maintain the roads the best they can, Riccio said improving conditions was a matter of “dollars and cents.”

His comments were made during a discussion on whether to fund a $158,000 road project with unspent cash from the current fiscal year or to include it in the upcoming capital budget. Democrats prevailed in a vote to remove the amount from next year’s capital budget and to fund the work through leftover money from this fiscal year.

Chris Palmieri, Town Council chairman and a Democrat, said residents have already been taxed the $158,000 in the current year. It’s been common practice to use unspent funds on projects and the vote Monday directed Town Manager Mark Sciota to prioritize the work. 

Palmieri said there will be a bond ordinance at the upcoming council meeting to borrow $900,000 for road improvements.

Sciota said there’s $2.2 million slated for road work this year.

“Roads are absolutely a priority,” Palmieri said. “I agree with Mike’s statement that the roads are pretty bad, I do see a lot of potholes. But I don’t think it has anything to do with a lack of funding.”

Improving the roads is going to cost millions of dollars, Riccio said. He opposed removing the $158,000 from the 2019/20 capital budget.

Palmieri said that Riccio could have made motions to increase funding for road maintenance during Monday’s council meeting.

“The floor is open if you want to make a recommendation to do something,” Palmieri said.

Riccio mentioned Woodruff, Carey and Savage streets and Flanders Road. A survey of those east side roads and others nearby showed cracks and potholes, some of which appeared recently filled.

“Public works is out every day addressing the roads,” said John Barry, a Democratic councilor and public works committee chairman.

The road work list for this year includes portions of Woodruff Street and Flanders Road.

Residents and councilors opposed chip sealing, a method of repairing roads that opponents said leaves gravel on the road and roadsides that can damage cars. Palmieri said that method was abandoned but the town is now left with only costlier ways of maintaining its streets.

“We’re trying to put a little bit more quality into the roads,” he said. “Therefore you’re not able to do as many because it costs more.”
Twitter: @JBuchananRJ

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