Last week, the Town Council’s Public Works subcommittee approved a set of roads to be reconstructed in 2019, but the list was limited to smaller, neighborhood streets. During the meetings, Councilors discussed ways to find money to do the longer roads leading from neighborhoods to the main arteries.
One of the limitations for reconstructing secondary arteries is money. Council Vice President Vincent Piccirilli said it may be time for the Council to designate funds for rebuilding these roads, also known as collector roads.
For the past several years, the Town’s budget has included $2.5 million for road and sidewalk construction. Public Works Superintendent Gerald Mee said that amount does not gone as far as it used to.
“We used to come (to the Council) with 20 roads (to reconstruct) then 12 roads and now seven,” Mee said. “One long street could use up the entire funding.”
Piccirilli suggested that the Council ask for a separate chunk of money for main and collector streets.
“Should we ask the Town administration to look at that? To consider additional funding for longer streets and collectors?” Piccirilli said, who suggested adding $1 million for that purpose.
Mee said that he thought that would be a big help.
District D Councilor Kenneth Woodland, who sits on the Public Works Committee, said he thought that was a great idea. He added that if the town was to borrow money to do that, the Council may have to change the policy to increase the amount of money the town can borrow for capital projects.
Councilor Lisa Feltner said she supports putting more money toward the collector roads, but also believes more money should be put towards fixing neighborhood roads and sidewalks.
The Public Works Committee voted 3-0 to recommend that $1 million be added to the Capital Improvement Plan for repair of longer and collector roads.
Roads Around Schools
Piccirilli also brought up the idea of prioritizing the roads around Watertown’s three public elementary schools at the same time that the schools are rebuilt or renovated. He noted that traffic and drop offs at the roads around the schools came up frequently at community meetings about the school projects.
“I think (road repair) needs to be synchronized with the building project,” Piccirilli said. “We could give the public a project that works.”
Councilor Tony Palomba, who sits on the Public Works Committee, said he did not like the idea of adding another criteria to consider when choosing the roads to be repaired.
Woodland said that he understands the desire to coordinate the road projects with the school construction, but he thinks that a different source of money should be found for that work.
Piccirilli argued that fixing the roads near the schools would impact the maximum amount of people, because of all the pick ups and drop offs. Also, if the school projects were a private development Town officials would require the developer to fix roads around the project to accommodate the new building.
The Public Works Committee did not vote on this matter.