NORWALK, Conn. – Hal Alvord’s requests for infrastructure mapping – which he claims is an indispensable tool for rebuilding Norwalk sidewalks – and document management are likely to be turned down in this year’s capital budget process.
Nothing new about that, he says.
Alvord’s Department of Public Works gets nearly $8.8 million in capital budget funds in Finance Director Thomas Hamilton’s recommended 2014-2015 capital budget. That includes $5 million for paving ($6 million had been planned), $830,000 for new vehicles and $730,000 for City Hall repairs and improvements. Not included are some tried and true losers like the infrastructure mapping, a request that has been denied for years.
The city’s capital budget is the subject of a public hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Planning and Zoning conference room, a room that does not accommodate many people.
Hamilton’s budget says yes to replacing the intercom system at police headquarters, described as being “obsolete,” for $20,000. It says yes to installing a waterproof membrane around the base of the Lockwood House, where Norwalk Museum artifacts will be stored, for $30,000; and yes to spending $100,000 to fund the replacement of the cooling tower at the library, described as being original to the 1977 portion of the building and well beyond its estimated 25-year life cycle.
The lowest bid was $100,000 more than the library’s estimate, so the project has been delayed.
Washington Street between Water Street and South Main Street is likely to get a $200,000 facelift next summer, thanks to Hamilton’s budget. The project, expected to begin in August, features redoing the crosswalks by replacing the brick pavers that were installed in the 1980’s, and installing granite curbs to lock the pavers in place. The road will be milled and overlaid with bituminous concrete and the crosswalks will get American Disability Act (ADA) ramps.
Other planned expenditures include $500,000 in sidewalks to be done in conjunction with road paving and $250,000 for storm water management.
Not planned: traffic signal replacement outside the city’s “main grid” and Alvord’s document management system, which he said would bring the department “into the 21st century.”
“We have to go to the flat files, go down manually to the basement,” Alvord said, of the current system.
Not planned: infrastructure mapping, which DPW has been requesting for seven or eight years, Alvord said.
“We never get it,” he said.
The department’s request says the system would pay itself back within four years with increased efficiencies.
“It would be a contract with a company,” Alvord said. “They have a vehicle. They use lasers and GPS and they go down the street and they record everything there and give you the GPS location of your traffic signals, your fire hydrants, your catch basins and your manholes and that kind of stuff. You get a video of how good the sidewalk is.”
Mayor Harry Rilling promised during his campaign to look into repairing Norwalk’s sidewalks. Since the election, Councilman David Watts (D-District A) has taken the cause up at Public Works Committee meetings, a discussion that is supported by Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large),
Alvord routinely says he’d need a study done first.
Some people suggest volunteers could do that – it’s easy to find the broken sidewalks, they say.
“When we tried to do an inventory of fire hydrants we were going to use volunteers,” Alvord said. “You can’t do it because people don’t understand what you need to do. If they get a crack or they get a panel that’s higher than the other one, that’s not the right kind of stuff. You need somebody who’s going to constantly look at the whole thing.”
“I don’t mean to put down volunteers,” he continued. “You get a lot of good things done with volunteers, but you can’t do engineering or facility assessment with volunteers. You’ve got to have a consistent set of eyes looking at stuff so that the same criteria s being applied across the board.”
Infrastructure mapping is akin to other surveying work that is done, he said. The city’s crawl cameras have been instrumental in identifying which sanitary pipes need to be replaced, he said.
There is a map of city footpaths, but it’s 12 years old, he said.
“Anything that was in good or fair condition 12 years ago is probably not in such good condition now,” he said.
But even if he got the mapping done he’d need more money to put the information to use, he said.
“The problem is I don’t have the staff,” he said. “I need a consultant to come in and be able to do that kind of stuff. We don’t have the staff to do it. If the mayor says don’t pave any more roads, shift the resources that we have to sidewalks, sure we could do that. Now do we want to do that – we’re not even halfway through trying to repair the damage to the roads that’s happened in the last 25 years. We’re starting to make progress. The PCI (Pavement Condition Index) from (2012-2013) increased from 72 to 75, so we’ve caught up with the years of the neglect and now we’re starting to make good progress.”