NORWALK, Conn. – Rumble strips, center lines and asphalt were part of a very road-oriented discussion when Mayor Harry Rilling and several of the city’s leaders held court in Silvermine at the recent Mayor’s Night Out. Also touched upon were property assessments – think “old cars” – and a Porta Potty lying on its side for quite some time.
While Norwalk Association of Silvermine Homeowners (NASH) President Christine Names said narrow, winding roads are part of what make Silvermine unique, Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik said that characteristic is also the reason residents were complaining about speeders at the June 30th session: Just going 10 miles an hour over the 25 mph speed limit makes a big difference.
Names said it’s impossible for pedestrians to be safe when people speed. Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) wondered why the speed limits on Silvermine’s winding roads are the same as for wider roads in the city; Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord said that while the Office of the State Traffic Administration (OSTA) generally goes along with requests from Norwalk to change regulations, “They won’t approve a speed limit less than 25 miles an hour; that’s sort of the default speed limit.”
He promised to take a look at putting in rumble strips in response to a resident.
Dan Grundman had another topic in mind: “The repaving job is unacceptable at any level,” he said, using Scribner Avenue as an example. It was paved, then Yankee Gas came in and excavated. Same thing on Yew Street where it comes to Grey Hollow, he said. Also on North Sand Hill. This type of thing leads to drivers veering around potholes and into the other lane, he said.
Alvord said every state in America requires municipalities to allow utility companies to dig up roads. Norwalk prohibits utilities from digging up a road for two years after it’s paved unless it’s an emergency, but he prefers to have a road last five or even 10 years, he said.
“When they get a permit in a city street, there’s two types of patching done by the contractor,” Alvord said. “One is a temporary patch, that’s done by the contractor. Then we do the permanent patches and the contractor pays for that. They pay for the permit and they pay a permanent pavement repair fee for permanent pavement repair. So there’s two types of patches that occur, the first one that goes in is temporary. It’s not high quality asphalt or anything like that. We try to monitor that when it settles and becomes a pothole, you know, that type of thing, and we make the contractors go back out and repair it, and then we want one winter season of settling before we put the permanent in.”
Yankee Gas is currently replacing “50 miles of old cast iron main” and DPW is working with them to get it done ahead of the paving program, he said.
Grundman had seen the patching process, he said.
As for Scribner Avenue, the road was in such bad condition that then-Mayor Richard Moccia said to put a thin coating over it, Alvord said. Yankee Gas paid for it, and has contributed money toward the final repaving, he said.
Names said a section of Silvermine Avenue, just north of the intersection with Comstock Hill Road, was patched badly. Alvord said he thought that was on the list for paving this year, but she had a request: Please put on a center line because people are “constantly” in the wrong lane.
“How much do you want your insurance to increase?” Alvord asked, smiling. “There’s a lot of things people don’t understand about some of the traffic. Just adding a center line, that raises the category classification of that roadway that then suggests to your insurance company that there’s more traffic on that road than there is, and in all likelihood your property insurance will increase. That’s why we don’t go through stripes all over the place.”
Names said it’s the only strip on Silvermine that doesn’t have a center line. “I’ll come and draw it,” another resident quipped.
“We’ll take a look at it,” Rilling said. “I don’t think your insurance company is going to come out and take a look at it.”
One senior citizen had what she drives on the roads as her topic: She said the assessment on her ’92 Honda had gone from $1,295 to more than $3,000.
“Car values come from the state,” Finance Director Thomas Hamilton said. “They are standardized across all the municipalities of the state. The state uses the VIN number for the vehicle and there is then a Blue Book value, if you will. The VIN number includes not only the make and model for the vehicle but also the options, whether or not there are bucket seats. … Bottom line is if you think your assessment is too high on your vehicle, there is an opportunity to go to the Board of Assessment Appeals.”
BAA meets in September to hear appeals on motor vehicle assessments, he said.
“One of the things we don’t know is the mileage of your vehicle,” he said. “So if you have particularly high mileage or your car is in particularly bad shape, then you might want to go to the Board of Assessment Appeals and bring photographs and let them know what the mileage of the car is.”
He told her to go to the tax assessor’s office to get forms. Rilling asked her to leave her name so she could be walked through the process.
Janet Fisher said she enjoyed the park behind Silvermine Elementary, where the Mayor’s Night Out was held, but she gets tired of picking up the garbage. She asked if it is a Norwalk park.
School grounds are considered park property, Recreation and Parks Department Director Mike Mocciae said, so his staff of 17 people handles 19 school grounds in addition to the parks. “We do get here to empty garbage, but its very difficult to get up here more than once a week,” he said.
A Porta Potty behind the school has been on its side for three years, one resident said.
“Usually the school calls me if it’s knocked over and I call the owner of the Port-a-John and they right it up. It’s a constant battle,” Mocciae said.
“It’s been flat for at least a year,” another said.
Rilling said there will be no Mayor’s Night Out events in July or August, “unless it’s necessary.” In September, the event will be in Cranbury, and then the cycle will start over with East Norwalk.