City looks to step up sidewalk work
By Gordon Dritschilo
City officials are turning their attention to Rutland’s sidewalks.
The Public Works Committee will take up how the fund for sidewalk repairs is handled following a request by Alderman Gary Donahue on behalf of the city’s Committee for Accessibility Improvement.
“It doesn’t take long to look around and see there are a lot of sidewalks in substandard condition,” Public Works Commissioner
Evan Pilachowski said Wednesday. “If we can figure out a way to fix more of those sidewalks, that’s something that should be done.”
Donahue, who represents the aldermen on the Committee for Accessibility Improvement, said the city needs to look at keeping unspent sidewalk and curb money from a given budget year and rolling it over to the same fund for the following year.
“At the end of the year, if that’s not used, it goes back into the general fund,” he said of the current system.
Donahue said his understanding is that the fund typically has leftovers because the city does not have enough manpower to accomplish all the budgeted work.
“It’s a low priority and the guys always have something more important to do,” he said.
Pilachowski said he did not have numbers at his fingertips, but that the amount unspent in the fund varies from year to year.
“There was a lot of money left over from last year because of Irene,” he said. “A lot of the time we had scheduled for sidewalk repairs was taken up working on storm damage. We’ve been able to devote more of our time to sidewalk repairs than last year.”
He added, “This summer we’ve hit sections of Evergreen, West Street, Wallace. We’ve done a section on Lafayette. We’re going to do a section on South Main Street. We have another section we need to do on Allen Street. I’m not hitting all of them. Those are the larger projects. There are smaller ones, too.”
Pilachowski said that he saw nothing wrong with rolling over money within the fund, but that it was a decision for the Board of Aldermen.
Donahue said there was also interest in taking advantage of a new agreement with the city employees’ union that allows projects of more than $30,000 to go out to bid. Pilachowski said sidewalk work was already benefitting from the new arrangement, but was doing so indirectly.
“We contracted bridge repairs, water repairs,” he said. “Had we done those ourselves, we would not be able to devote our time to sidewalks.”