Town Engineer Says $10 Million Needed For Road Repairs, Paving

For Sandwich residents concerned about the tax impact of the $20 million public safety facility proposal, the other shoe dropped last night.

Town engineer Paul S. Tilton came before the board of selectmen last night to propose a road and infrastructure bond totaling $10 million.

Mr. Tilton, who is also the town’s director of public works, further proposed adding $300,000 every year to the town’s pavement operating budget to maintain its roads.

Although the selectmen recognize the need to address and repair the town’s deteriorating roads, parking lots and other infrastructure, they expressed concern about the potential debt sticker shock that faces Sandwich taxpayers.

To that end, they asked Mr. Tilton and town manager George H. Dunham to report back to the selectmen by January 15 on possible ways to space out the work and debt to avoid hitting the taxpayers with one massive financial blow.

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Mr. Tilton, in his presentation last night, listed the spending that he said is needed.

That spending includes $3 million on public roads in the town; $200,000 on sidewalks; $4 million on driveways and parking lots at town facilities; $1.3 million on driveways and parking lots at school facilities; $500,000 for school tennis courts; and $1 million to complete the Sandwich High School athletic field.

One key word characterizes the need for maintenance of public roads, parking lots and similar infrastructure in Sandwich: overdue.

Mr. Dunham said the town has not issued a road bond since 1996.

The town manager further said the cost of the road work will only increase over time. The 1996 bond, for example, was for $3.2 million.

“The longer we wait, the more expensive it becomes,” he said. “We’re so far gone, we need that big influx of money.”

In the intervening years since the last bond, selectman chairman James W. Pierce said, the town effectively has been “cannibalizing” its roads by failing to invest in them.

At present, Mr. Tilton said, the town is receiving an average of $700,000 of state Chapter 90 money to use toward its roads, but needs $1.3 million annually to adequately maintain all town roads.

Meanwhile, the operating budget at the town Department of Public Works is used for items such as pothole repairs and limited work on drainage, berms, sidewalks and parking lots.

Further, Sandwich has 148 miles of public road to maintain, appreciably more than off-Cape towns such as Hanover, with 85, and Kingston, with 69.

The town engineer said an analysis of pavement conditions on Sandwich roads and at town and school facilities shows that their conditions are deteriorating.

In 2005, for example, roads in town rated an 83 on the pavement condition index, placing their maintenance needs just slightly above routine.

This year, however, the roads in town had slipped to a 76 rating, requiring preventative maintenance, and not far from requiring structural improvements. Some school and town facilities had dropped to a rating of 62, requiring structural improvement at the least and just slightly above the need for base rehabilitation.

Mr. Tilton presented Sandwich roads in varying conditions, from the Service Road (characterized as in good condition, possibly in need of crack sealing or minor repairs) to Popple Bottom Road (in poor condition, needing reclamation or full-depth reconstruction.)

The town engineer said roads can get to a point where, through the pounding of traffic and seepage of water, it does not make sense to do repairs rather than reconstruction.

The key, Mr. Tilton said, is to prevent roads from reaching that state.

In recent years, he said, Sandwich has fixed its main roads while it has neglected its subdivision roads.
He presented a chart showing a “pavement deterioration curve.” According to the chart, an excellent road over time can experience a 40-percent decline in quality to a fair condition, yet remain relatively inexpensive to renovate.

But a further 40-percent decline, from fair to very poor, multiplies the cost of renovation by a factor of 13 to 17.

Selectmen said they recognized the need for the road and infrastructure work.

“You’ve convinced me that we have to do something, that the status quo is not enough,” selectman John G. Kennan Jr. said.

But selectmen said they also recognized that residents already struggling with large property tax bills are in no hurry to take on additional tax burdens, no matter how justified.

“We can’t ask for all these things,” selectman Ralph A. Vitacco said.

Sandwich voters already have shown town officials that they are prepared to say no.

This past May, the voters defeated a $30 million public safety facility plan. In the wake of that vote, the selectmen asked the committee working on the facility to come back with a proposal that totaled no more than $20 million.

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