NORWALK, Conn. – Something is not right, according to a Norwalk resident who has filed a claim against the city.
Robert Celli, a Dry Hill Road resident, claims that heavy equipment compacted the sidewalk in front of his home, causing puddles when it rains and even sending the water toward his home. He said he’d be happy with a new asphalt sidewalk, which most of his neighbors got as part of the recent repaving of Dry Hill Road, but there is nothing wrong with the old sidewalk and it does not need replacing, according to Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord.
If Celli wants to put in a new sidewalk he must use expensive concrete, Alvord said. But if DPW had done it, the new sidewalk would have been asphalt. DPW did, in fact, use asphalt to fix a four foot section of Celli’s sidewalk that was damaged in the recent repaving, meaning the sidewalk goes from new concrete on the corner to new asphalt to old asphalt.
“Something is strange here. This may be a case of DPW deciding what to do, which they do, as it seems they do always,” Celli said. “… They patched up different areas of the sidewalk and it really looks like heck, it really doesn’t look well. OK, you can say whatever you want, but you impacted my sidewalk. The water doesn’t run off. It’s on a slant. It’s dangerous.”
It’s dangerous, he said, because in winter the puddle on the sidewalk may freeze and become a patch of ice. The asphalt patch rises from the old sidewalk to the new handicapped assessable corner, making the asphalt a downward ramp from the corner leading to the puddle. The corner is a school bus stop, he said.
“Mr. Celli’s claim has been filed and is under review. (Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord) is determining if the paving project on Dry Hill Road was done according to plan,” Mayor Harry Rilling said in an email.
Celli said he talked to a Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency (CIRMA) representative. She said, “It will take a very, very long time and an awful lot of investigation and time. I don’t know when this could possibly be done,” according to Celli. She also said that Alvord, “although a man of few words, was very smart, does a great job, knows his stuff, and is great at what he does,” according to Celli.
The city paved the entire length of Dry Hill Road. From Murray Street, at the northern end of Dry Hill Road, to Celli’s house on the corner of Merrill, almost everyone got new asphalt sidewalks and curbs. The exception is a block of concrete sidewalk, which does not appear to be new.
Between 19 Dry Hill and 33 Dry Hill, the sidewalk is old, with some new patches. From midway in front of 19 Dry Hill to Westport Avenue, DPW put in new concrete sidewalks.
In short, almost everyone got new sidewalks. Alvord said homes nearer to Westport Avenue got concrete because they’re in the urban zone.
“DPW is deciding who gets what and it’s wrong,” Celli said. “I am wondering if this is because when Mayor Moccia was still in office, I had three trees here that were city trees on the Merrill Road side of my house that were slated to be removed before I bought this house. … For four years after I bought this house I continually called customer service and DPW and requested they do something about them because they were dangerous, they were dying. Every time there was a storm of any kind, huge branches would come down. I said somebody is going to get hurt.”
Celli said he finally wrote a letter to Moccia. The trees were cut down.
“Is this retribution from DPW because I went to Mayor Moccia?” he asked.
Celli’s sidewalk wasn’t replaced because it wasn’t damaged, Alvord said. The curbing was intact; the curbing down the rest of Dry Hill was damaged, Alvord said. Curbing exists to funnel water in the right direction, he said. If the curbing is damaged, it must be redone, and with it the sidewalk, he said.
On April 28 Celli sent an email to Rilling and Councilman David Watts (D-District A):
“The way this project is being undertaken is much less than desirable and will leave the south end of Dry Hill Road looking subpar and piecemeal, with sidewalks in worse condition than when it was started, partial old and partial new blacktop. All this money spent and, in the end, incomplete and horrible. Whoever is in charge has planned poorly and why should the homeowners/taxpayers suffer because of it?
“I’m beginning to think there is some type of discrimination at work. What other excuse could there be but discrimination, poor planning, or incompetence? In any case, someone at DPW should be held accountable, but the homeowners should not suffer because of it. Still, I contend whoever is selecting some homes to get blacktop sidewalks and others not appears to be doing it arbitrarily. What is the reason? Something is terribly wrong with this process.
“Mr. Mayor, if you have not been out to see this for yourself, you really should take a ride down Dry Hill Road starting on the north end and head toward Route One and see how beautiful it looks until you hit Merrill Road, and then you will realize someone has planned this project very poorly. I work for a large partnership and this type of poor planning would not be tolerated and heads would roll. The city should accept no less.”
On May 28, Public Works Committee Chairman David McCarthy said in an email to Celli that he had spoken to Alvord about the issue:
“The response from the director was that the curb’s primary function is to direct water into the drains so as to avoid ponding in warm weather and icing in the winter. The existing curb that is in front of your property is not damaged and is serving the drainage purpose. He has personally inspected the site and observed that, while there may be some ripples, the sidewalk is not in terrible condition. Given that the amount budgeted for sidewalks this year is only $350k, we need to make the most out of what we have in replacing or repairing the sidewalks that absolutely need to be replaced or repaired.
“If we replaced your sidewalk, as you know, it would be replaced in concrete, not asphalt. The cost of concrete is significantly higher than that of asphalt, and the tradeoff (of the sidewalk along your property being replaced) would be other sidewalks not being repaired or replaced. The council is not in charge of picking what sidewalks get paved; staff does that with the goal of maximizing the amount that gets done given the budget. There are 140 miles of sidewalk in the City, much of it in need of repair; a formal assessment has not yet been done but the expectation is that bringing all City sidewalk up to standard will cost in the tens of millions of dollars. In light of this, $350,000 is minuscule and requires very tight management by staff so as to maximize the benefit of every tax dollar. In my view they are doing this well. The members of the Public Works Committee of the Council concur that a better funded sidewalk program is needed and has committed to work with staff in developing same going forward.”
Said Celli, “If I want to go to City Hall and I want to repair my sidewalk on Dry Hill Road, or Merrill Road for that matter, they are going to tell me ‘Oh, you can’t fix it with asphalt, you have to use cement, that’s city zoning.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s curious. You broke up four feet, damaged my sidewalk, then you replaced it with blacktop.’ You have to follow your own code. The city, to me, how can they not – they’re not above and beyond the code.”