Ah, lovely, bucolic Vermont. Covered bridges, winding roads, brilliant fall colors. That’s New England, home to the country’s first communities. And sometimes, centuries-old infrastructure is just no longer up to the task.
When an 1800’s-era road over failing sewer and water pipeline needed to be replaced, the Town of Morristown Highway Department showed the pluck that New Englanders are known for.
Maple Street required a complete rebuild: 14 inches of asphalt and 10 inches of concrete removed and replaced with a new road bed and paved with asphalt; water, sewer, and stormwater line replacement; and new sidewalks.
“This is an older residential neighborhood and all the lines were in terrible shape, as was the street,” says Town Administrator Dan Lindley. “I doubt we’d have gotten voter approval to borrow the $2.5 million to $2.7 million necessary to completely contract out the project.”
The department’s 14 employees are split into a highway crew that maintains roads outside the town’s limits and a village crew that oversees roads, streets, and sidewalks in town. To save money, they contracted out only the work they lacked the skill or equipment to complete. They would do the rest themselves while sandwiching in maintenance of existing facilities throughout their 52-square-mile service area.
It was the first road reconstruction in department history.
“I don’t think they’d even set a catch basin before,” says Plan Director and Zoning Administrator Todd Thomas. Like public works crews everywhere, they figured it out. Since 2013, they’ve saved taxpayers $1 million to $1.2 million.
There was a learning curve, but with seven to 10 employees on the job every day, most of the project was completed in one construction season. Asphalt grinding and water and sewer line construction were done by contractors, and the department may outsource placing of new granite curbing and sidewalks to expedite the project.
“The crew definitely went above and beyond,” says Thomas.