Alvord: Engineer on foot to do Norwalk sidewalk assessment

Norwalk Van Zant Street sidewalk.
Imagine tripping and falling on this Van Zant Street sidewalk.

NORWALK, Conn. – The next sign of hope for Norwalk sidewalks is likely to be an engineer walking around the city with a clipboard in his hand.

While the Department of Public Works’ request for infrastructure mapping was denied as part of the 2014-15 capital budget process, a much less comprehensive approach will allow plans to be made to improve sidewalks, DPW Director Hal Alvord said Monday. Alvord also took a little time to elaborate on the recent authorization of money to buy two trash compactors for the transfer station.

The Common Council Public Works Committee will consider on Tuesday evening an amendment to an existing contract with Vanasse Hangen Brustin, Inc. (VHB) to provide an evaluation of sidewalks in the urban zone, along an estimated 55 miles of street, for a sum not to exceed $20,250.

“This is going to be an engineer walking down the street with a clipboard,” Alvord said. “That’s all we can afford to do. When I say that’s all we can afford to do, nobody approved anything to do sidewalk assessment. We would have done it as part of infrastructure mapping but that didn’t get approved.”

Van Zant Street Norwalk
The sidewalks on Van Zant Street are bad for business, according to a Norwalk shopkeeper.

Infrastructure mapping would have involved a vehicle equipped with lasers and GPS, which would map the location of every manhole, every stop sign, every traffic signal – just about everything. Alvord said in February that DPW has been requesting this for seven or eight years. It would pay for itself in four years, he said.

So DPW is asking to take $20,000 out of the $500,000 authorized in the 2014-15 capital budget for sidewalk repairs in conjunction with paving, he said. The study was requested by council members, he said.

“We’re only talking an assessment. We already have planned what to do with that $500,000 next year. We already know which roads we want to have paved and which ones need curbs and so on,” Alvord said. “The survey could have two impacts. One is hopefully ask for additional funds to do the sidewalks and curbs in conjunction with the paving. Then if the city is willing to support it, a second piece that we could potentially go out and do is sidewalks to fill in gaps where there are no sidewalks or roads that aren’t going to be paved for another 10 years, that kind of thing.”

That should be done by fall, he said.

“We’re still going to continue to do sidewalks as part of the paving program. The reason for that is I don’t have enough engineering staff to take an engineer and just put together a sidewalk program the way we have a paving program. It makes sense to do it in conjunction with all the paving anyway,” Alvord said.

The council approved $273,000 on May 14 to buy trash compactors for the transfer station. Alvord said two compactors will be bought this year, and hopefully the third one will be replaced next year.

One compactor has been broken for more than eight months, he said. It would have cost $50,000 to $100,000 to repair it, which wouldn’t have made sense because the 32-year-old compactor would have likely broken down again, he said. That compactor will be replaced first, he said.

If Norwalk had leased City Carting’s Meadow Street transfer station as was proposed in 2008, the compactors would not have been an issue, he said.

“We wouldn’t have to worry about those compactors,” Alvord said. “We would have just put covers over them and be done with it. But they didn’t. We would have gotten all the revenue from the C&D (Construction and Demolition) at Meadow Street.”

The Meadow Street transfer station has 10 bays, two of which take C&D, he said. Norwalk can only get one truck into its transfer station at a time, he said.

“There’s a lot of money in C&D,” Alvord said. “We’re paying $85 a ton and charging $85 a ton. C&D is $95 a ton and it’s less money to dispose of so you make a ton of money in C&D and it’s all commercial. So we would have had all that revenue… There was a ton of money to be made for the city but it became this big political football.”

See the pdf below for a look at some of the discussion of that item.

DPW 2008 special meeting minutes


10 responses to “Alvord: Engineer on foot to do Norwalk sidewalk assessment”

  1. EveT

    I hope they will fix the handicapped parking area at City Hall. Snowplows tore up some of the berms there and people could easily trip over the remnants.

  2. John Hamlin

    So many streets need new sidewalks. Perhaps there should be a moratorium on spending increases on anything routine until all the sidewalks in the city are repaired or replaced. They should be a priority.

  3. Oldtimer

    “The council approved $273,000 on May 14 to buy trash compactors for the transfer station. Alvord said two compactors will be bought this year, and hopefully the third one will be replaced next year.”
    With the $273,000 approved for a no-bid contract with City Carting, to replace three, will there be three new compactors, or will Alvord be back, looking for more money when City Carting decides to buy the third ? A lot of the compactor companies offer rebuilt units for about half the price of new ones, and lease deals that include all necessary repairs and maintenance. How will we know if the “new” units are really new or rebuilts ? The City needs to be watching this no-bid deal very carefully. It is hard to imagine City Carting getting involved without the prospect of considerable profit.

  4. peter parker

    Do we really need to take $20,000 from the repave and sidewalk budget to hire someone to tell us the sidewalks and roads in most of the city are in poor condition? This is a joke! Just another way for DPW to waste and divert money! Why not use that $20,000 toward fixing some of the mess that already exists! And $273,000 for trash compactors no one bid on, and the council let Alvord push down their throats! Another DPW blunder! How and who lets Alvord get away with this stuff? Amazing. Who’s watching the store here? Obviously no one. This council should be ashamed.

  5. LWitherspoon

    Interesting question by Peter Parker. Who is minding the store here? The $273k compactor purchase was unanimously approved by the Common Council, Democrats and Republicans alike. Even David Watts, who claimed that the purchasing procedure was all wrong, inexplicably voted for it. Why would someone approve a big-ticket purchase if he truly felt that it was improper? Perhaps Mr. Watts was against the purchase until he was for it – all in the same Council meeting!
    Hal Alvord is a department head who reports to the Mayor. Are you alleging a failure of oversight by the Mayor in allowing Mr. Alvord to propose a purchase that you have confidently stated was at too high a price? Do you remain unwilling to back up your claim by making what in your words would be a “simple phone call”?

  6. Peter Parker

    They are all at fault as it relates to the trash compactor purchase approval, the Mayor, Council, and DPW Director Hal Alvord. The bid process should have been followed, period! Maybe they all should be fired?

  7. Oldtimer

    Until somebody tells us what size unit is proposed, it is impossible to get quotes. I visited Crescent St to see if I could get a look at a nameplate showing manufacturer and model number, but was not allowed to get close enough. There are numerous companies and numerous size units. I did learn that the City Carting Co bid for two replacement units had gone out months ago. The person I spoke with did not know the size of the old ones, the size of the proposed replacements, nor the amount of the successful (lowest) bid. There are too many variables to get a quote without more info. Rebuilt units of the largest size, listed as industrial compactors, are offered for $45,000 and a realistic quote would have to spell out transport and installation costs and include whatever allowance is made for the old ones. In short, way more information is necessary to get real numbers, than is currently available to the public. I assume there was a unanimous approval because the case was made it was a pro-forma vote, as the appropriation had been included into the budget months prior and Alvord was apparently very persuasive about the big savings if it was done his way, right away, waiving normally required purchasing procedure. I am puzzled about why the manufacturer had not been asked to send somebody to evaluate and possibly repair the existing units. One they say does not work. Another, I am told, works but no longer exerts enough compacting force and I am guessing probably only needs a new high pressure hydraulic pump. I am not going to estimate the cost of replacing such a pump, but the pump itself seems to be a 6 to 7 hundred dollar part. No-bid purchases are very hard to justify, as they should be.

  8. LWitherspoon

    Thanks for confirming that it was not possible for you to find a cheaper offer with a simple phone call, as you had confidently predicted. Let’s hope that your future comments are more grounded in fact.
    Perhaps now you’ll address the question of whether the unanimous approval of the compactor purchase represents a failure of oversight by Mayor Rilling. After all, Alvord reports to the Mayor.
    I find it peculiar that Mr. Watts criticized the compactor purchase yet voted for it. Controversial items can be removed from the consent calendar and voted on separately; did he even propose doing that?

  9. Nora King

    Another study that some department heads will ignore? Do we really need a study to tell us how bad our sidewalks and footpaths are? Perhaps Hal just needs to take a walk?

  10. Mike Mushak

    Nora, you are right on. I asked Hal Alford several times to tour our neighborhood and try to walk on the potholed and impassable sidewalks. That is all the research he would need. No response. He is lucky to get to go home every night to Danbury. Why would he live in Norwalk? He’s not stupid.

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