DPW takes inventory of city’s sidewalks
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | October 22,2013
Anthony Edwards / Staff Photo
The broken down sidewalk running along Allen Street between Mahoney Court and Mussey Street is shown on Monday.
A report by the Department of Public Works says the city would need a five-fold budget increase just to keep up with Rutland’s deteriorating sidewalks.
The Sidewalk Inventory Report, published Monday on the city’s website, put total replacement costs for inadequate sidewalks at roughly $5 million. It also said that just maintaining city sidewalks would call for an increase from the current budget of $50,000 to expenditures of $250,000 a year.
The city has roughly 43 miles of sidewalks, maintained almost entirely in-house by DPW crews. The city allocates $70,000 a year for “concrete/pre-cast” curbing, according to the report, of which $50,000 is used for sidewalks.
Sidewalks were visually inspected. The survey found three miles of sidewalks that were classified as failed, in complete deterioration and impassable. Another 14 miles were classified as “poor,” possibly passable but still heavily deteriorated and noncompliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“At current funding levels of $50,000/yr., it would take approximately 99.7 years (not accounting for inflation) to replace all sidewalks and crossings currently in need of replacement,” the report read. “This is beyond the assumed life cycle of concrete sidewalks of 50 years and shows that we can expect the sidewalks to continue to deteriorate faster than they can be replaced at current funding levels.”
Indeed, the report used the 50-year lifespan to calculate a need for $250,000 a year in work just to maintain the current inventory.
The report used a number of factors, including condition and location, to create a “Top 10” list of segments that needed replacing. The top two, along with four others, were on Allen Street. Segments of Temple, Pierpoint, Forest and Crescent were also featured.
While $5 million might be within the range the city could bond for, DPW Commissioner Jeffrey Wennberg said he could not see putting a sidewalk project of that scope on the March ballot alongside the planned stormwater separation project for the northwest neighborhood. However, he did say the city could see savings from tackling the sidewalks all at once.
“Usually, the larger a project you bid out, if you can keep a decent-size contractor’s crews busy for one season in a relatively small area you can get some economies of scale from that,” he said. “Those savings are real.”
Wennberg said grant funding could play a role in how much gets done and when.
“Once we have a plan and can defend it with results like what’s in the report, it makes it easier to access state and federal sources of money,” he said.
Mayor Christopher Louras said the sidewalk budget remains unchanged in the budget he will present to the Board of Aldermen next week. He said he liked the idea of doing separate outlays for increased sidewalk spending, similar to the additional money for street paving that was integrated into the budget last year after repeatedly winning separate approval from city voters.
“The sidewalk report is the first stage of a public education process similar to what we did with the water pipes and similar to what we did with the roads,” he said. “We’re just at the crawl stage of crawl-walk-run.”
Board of Aldermen President David Allaire said he hears a lot about the state of Rutland’s sidewalks and he would like to see a discussion on them.
“I’ve always heard areas around schools and downtown and the medical center are priorities,” he said. “Speaking from personal experience, around the Intermediate and Middle School are areas that have been overlooked for a long time.”