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Norwalk DPW touts ‘metrics of success’

(File photo)

NORWALK, Conn. — More streets were paved last year than in 2021, Norwalk Department of Public Works engineers said Tuesday. More concrete sidewalks were completed, and drainage improvements increased significantly. Tree plantings shot up 237%.

“All this work that we’re able to perform is a direct result of the budget that we’re given out there,” Civil Engineer Daniel Stanton said to the Common Council Public Works Committee.

The tree planting increase is due largely to American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, noted Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Smyth (D-At Large).

Drainage work included 47 new catch basins, compared to 17 in 2021, according to Senior Civil Engineer Paul Sotnik. That’s not just replacing existing aged infrastructure, that’s identifying chronic puddling in areas where the roads are being repaved and adding drainage to eliminate “what we call a birdbath on the street.”

 

Paving metrics

DPW’s stats for paving this year include work done by Dec. 7:

Completed in 2021

  • Number of roads 29
  • Linear feet paved 41,331
  • Center lane miles paved 7.83
  • Total tonnage 21,593

Completed in 2022

  • Number of roads 49
  • Linear feet paved 50,211
  • Center lane miles paved 9.51
  • Total tonnage 19,399

 

Percentage difference from 2021

  • Number of roads 59%
  • Linear feet paved 21%
  • Center lane miles paved 21%
  • Total tonnage -10%

 

Remaining work from 2022

  • Number of roads 3
  • Linear feet paved 5,918
  • Center lane miles paved 1.12
  • Total tonnage 2,708

 

The tonnage decreased because “even though it was more streets done, some of the streets might have been a little smaller,” Sotnik said.

Council member Nora Niedzielski-Eichner (D-At Large) noted that “scope of work remaining” means the good weather moved on before DPW completed its plans. Sotnik agreed that the work will be done when the weather improves.

 

 

Sidewalks

DPW’s stats for sidewalks:

2021 total forecast to be completed

  • 2.249 miles

2022 total forecast to be completed

  • 4.222 miles

Percentage increase

  • 87.7%

 

“We were able to get more work done,” Sotnik said.

“It just so happens that the roads that we intend to pave now have a lot more sidewalk work in need of repair,” Senior Civil Engineer Drew Berndlmaier said. DPW doesn’t want to pave the area and “leave zero reveal on the curbs,” ensuring drainage issues.

“We’ve postponed these streets because of the higher expense up to this point,” Berndlmaier said. “And now and now we’re at a point where we have to do something in some of these neighborhoods, like the Ohio neighborhood.”

Sidewalks and pavement were improved on 13 roads off Main Street, in a three-year project in the Center-Ohio, Plymouth Avenue neighborhood, Chief of Operations and Public Works Vanessa Valadares said Dec. 12.

“We couldn’t really pave those streets until we until we fixed the drainage and the sidewalks first,” Berndlmaier said Tuesday.

Sotnik said two contractors are working on pavement projects, “trying to keep up with all of this work rather than just going with one contract like we had done in previous years.”

Council member Bryan Meek (R-District D) asked if the stats include footpaths, or work done by citizens.

No, the citizen-funded work isn’t included, Berndlmaier said.

“We actually did a lot of footpaths this year,” he said, referring to bituminous paths, not concrete sidewalks.

Paths were widened on Fillow Street and connectivity was added to Soundview Avenue, he said. In the spring footpath work will be done along Flax Hill Road, from Darien to Highland Avenue, and improvements are planned on Richards Avenue.

 

Drainage

DPW’s stats for drainage:

2021 on-call drainage

  • Seven roads, $251,765.78 total cost

2022 on-call drainage

  • 16 roads, $1,512,424.51 total cost

Scope of work remaining 2022

  • Four roads, estimated total cost $900,000

Catch basins installed

  • 2021: 17
  • 2022: 47

Linear feet of pipe installed

  • 2021 2,658
  • 2022 4,009

 

“This is not the big drainage projects,” Sotnik said. “It is the work that’s in preparation, once again, for paving prior to the paving work being done.”

DPW sends cameras down the city’s systems and sometimes finds “corrugated metal pipe that is completely corroded,” Berndlmaier said. If it weren’t repaired a sinkhole could develop in a new road.

But, again, the work also includes new catch basins to eliminate long-standing drainage problems, he said.

Meek asked if DPW coordinates with the Water Pollution Control Authority, which is repairing many sewer lines.

DPW talks with Norwalk Senior Engineer Ralph Kolb and WPCA every day, Sotnik said. Storm drainage can’t be funded by the WPCA and “obviously,” Kolb tries to get the sewer line work done before paving. The bodies coordinate their efforts.

Niedzielski-Eichner said the City is trying to separate sewer lines from storm drainage and asked if any of the projects had accomplished that.

The Ohio/Plymouth project accomplished “significant separation,” Berndlmaier said. The more extensive work on the Dreamy Hollow area, one of the City’s major drainage projects, includes “a lot of sanitary sewer improvements that we’re making in conjunction with the drainage improvements,” appropriately funded by WPCA for sewers and the City for stormwater lines.

 

Permits

DPW’s stats for permits:

2021

  • 470 Encroachment permits issued
  • 170 Driveway permits issued
  • 640 Total number of permits issued

2022

  • 556 Encroachment permits issued
  • 164 Driveway permits issued
  • 720 Total number of permits issued

 

Plan reviews approved

  • 2021: 47
  • 2022: 47

Plan reviews received

  • 2021: 75
  • 2022: 79

 

Encroachment permits are for general work in the right of way, such as a property owner having a sewer line installed, Sotnik explained. Driveway permits are for driveways.

Plan reviews are DPW engineers commenting on plans submitted by the developers or property owners, as to whether they can be approved.

Why are more received than approved?

“There’s a variety of different things,” Sotnik said. “In some cases, they had to go back and get redone. Sometimes the developers decided to withdraw them, and some of them are still being worked on.”

Trees

DPW’s stats for trees planted through its budget:

  • 2021: 119 total trees planted
  • 2022: 401 total trees planted

 

Shanahan called that a “great trend” but asked for “metrics of destruction.”

“I’m curious about the trees that are gone missing, you know, the ones that we’re losing,” she said.

Those weren’t included in the prepared “metrics.”

Norwalk Tree Warden Chris Torre later said he didn’t have exact numbers but “I can tell you with 100% certainty that we planted more than we removed. The reason why I don’t have that numbers because we had the the windstorm at the end of November. And we had the wind and two days before Christmas.”

In July, the Common Council approved a two-year “on call” agreement with Almstead Tree & Shrub Care Company LLC and Minutemen Land Services, LLC for the supply and planting of trees and shrubs, specifying up to $700,000 on “task orders” between the two companies. This was funded through ARPA dollars, which need to be spent by 2024.

DPW was able to stretch its tree dollars a little further plus there was ARPA funding and another grant, Sotnik said.

“We’ve had more money this last year than we’ve ever had to work with,” he said. “We’d gone from some years where we had $50,000, one year where it was 10, in another year where we had 65 and then now we’re so much further … it’s over a million dollars now we’ve had to work with going forward.”

7 comments

David Muccigrosso January 4, 2023 at 10:36 am

The sidewalk out in front of C-town still looks like crap. S Main could use a half-dozen more crosswalks too, and it’s littered with potholes. Elizabeth is crinkled like a potato chip at Day St.

Patrick Cooper January 4, 2023 at 2:21 pm

This is a win for Norwalk? For whom? Follow the money. Last March 21st, on the crumbling sidewalk in front of the failing West Rocks middle school (near the successful “private” institution Winston Prep school) that Lamont, Himes, Duff, Rilling, Estrella, Reynolds, all stood for their “photo-op” – touting a 1.4 million dollar grant to fix – remains a joke. BIG talk – zero action.

When will we revolt? I mean – pitch-forks, burning torches, the works?

CT is so ridiculously overcharged & taxed for the services we receive it’s an abomination. Nothing is more poorly managed or delivers less value for the cost than government delivered services. NOTHING.

When Bob Duff was asked at his one and only debate to explain why it cost 3x more for the state to build housing than the private sector – his answer was – “NO”. The only thing we don’t know (but could guess) – is either Bob didn’t know the answer, or was deathly afraid to tell us the truth.

Case in point: the DMV. Can any rational human explain why that State department – in January of 2023 – is open by appointment only? Why – when you call you wait on hold for over an hour? Why – when you are actually inside the building – it takes hours to accomplish the simplest of tasks? Never mind these public sector union folks are paid exorbitant wages (for the job) and ridiculous benefits and pensions – all by the very taxpayers they fail.

WHY do we tolerate this?

The public should begin to demand that we privatize virtually every single government service- including our failing public education. When is enough – enough?

Johnny cardamone January 5, 2023 at 1:16 am

There’s lots of things you can do with money, but remember where it came from it’s the peoples money🥵💪🏼🇺🇸🦬

David Muccigrosso January 5, 2023 at 9:06 am

Patrick’s rhetoric is a large part of why we have bad public services. When an entire half of our political system decides that every service is worthless and must be burnt down, we shouldn’t get all shocked that the resulting services get even WORSE. Of course they got worse, you just spent the last several decades trying to “starve the beast”!

Fun fact: Grover Norquist, the big anti-tax guy, actively lobbies to make YOUR taxes harder to file, so that you’ll develop the same irrational hatred of taxes that he’s still holding onto from 8th grade (true story!).

Patrick can’t have his cake and eat it too. It takes money to make systems efficient. Look no further than Southwest Airlines – the entire reason for their recent shitshow was that their CEO is a penny-pinching accountant who refused to update their obsolete computer systems. This isn’t just a public-vs-private problem; Southwest shows that the private sector is perfectly capable of screwing up all on their own, too.

No, it’s “penny-wise vs. pound-foolish”. And we’ll never get the efficiency Patrick says he wants by indulging his rhetoric.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but this ultimately isn’t even Patrick’s fault. Our electoral system is so accursedly zero-sum, it forces these crappy politicians on us by *default*. If we ever want our bureaucracy to be efficient and accountable, we can do it one of two ways: (1) slow and painstaking, like our current system, or (2) faster and with less acrimoney, like we’d get from having Ranked Choice and open primaries.

Bryan Meek January 6, 2023 at 9:34 am

@David. Big difference is that SW is being held accountable. Not by the failed regulatory arm of our government, but by the markets. And I highly doubt you hate to sound like a broken record, so I’ll go on like one in the sprit of the conversation.

Money is not in short supply when it comes to government, but accountability and results are. For example, DMVs $30 million in system upgrades and many of the handful of transactions they manage still can not be done on line and require an appointment. Compare that to Amazon which went live on a $10 million investment that can ship anything to your doorstep from across the planet in 2 days. By your logic we should just shut up and give DMV more money.

David Muccigrosso January 6, 2023 at 8:24 pm

@Bryan, you should know well enough that Amazon didn’t do “ship anything to your doorstep from across the planet in 2 days” on that initial 10 million. They’ve had billions, if not trillions, of investor cash dumped into them for 2 straight decades to get them to this point.

For shame.

Bryan Meek January 7, 2023 at 9:19 am

@David. I know full well they were only selling books at that time, and still they handled infinitely more orders and customers than DMV which used to be open 35 hours a week and is now only open by appointment that you have to wait hours on the phone to get.

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