The Beatles’ last song was “The Long & Winding Road” in 1970.
In 1997, Sandwich roads got their last bond money. They have been deteriorating since. Chapter 90 funding just won’t cut it. More was needed to keep the roads in good shape.
Flashback to November 2013: The board of selectmen asked town engineer/superintendent of public works Paul Tilton to prepare a report on pavement management, and a road and infrastructure bond proposal.
Tilton compiled a very detailed 46-page presentation, which delved into the value of keeping roads in good condition, which saves future costs to repair them. He spoke about the practice of planning the maintenance and repair of a network of roadways in order to maximize the value and life of the entire network. Sandwich has 148 miles of roadway, almost as much as Kingston and Hanover combined. He explained the Pavement Condition Index, in which, as in school, you want to get a grade of at least a high “B” (86-92 is good condition, 93-100 is excellent condition). In an example, the Boardwalk and Town Neck Beach parking lots were a 48 (poor condition), Beale Avenue is a 65 (deficient) and Popple Bottom Road a 50 (poor). Chapter 90 funding received by the town amounts to $700,000 per year, which can be used for pothole repairs, drainage, berms, sidewalks and parking lots. But Tilton’s November 2013 report called for a $10 million bond. Selectmen thought that was a bit on the high side, and asked Tilton for a re-do.
So, in January 2014, Tilton presented another road and infrastructure bond proposal on priorities and costs, with a final price tag of $6.6 million. He offered two choices in how to accomplish the work, in a way that would be palatable to taxpayers. The first was a $3.5 million debt exclusion, bonded over 10 years. The annual tax impact (for an average home) would start at $42.02 per year in 2015, go down to $33.08 in 2014 and disappear the next year. The second choice was five years of $1.3 million capital outlay expenditure exclusions. Tilton preferred the first choice, telling Snyder’s Sandwich, “I prefer that the available funds are there. It’s easier to plan.” Selectmen chose Plan 2, which will require voters to pass it on a ballot question, and at Town Meeting, as well—for five consecutive years.
As for why Plan 2 was selected, selectmen chairman Jim Pierce told me, “I went with the majority on the grounds that moving forward was better than indecision. In the words of my favorite 20-century philosopher, Yogi Bear, ‘When you come to a fork in the road, take it.’ “
Tilton said the last road bond was in 1997. “I’ve been asking since 2007 for a road bond. I was looking for different versions to get money to keep the roads in good condition. When they deteriorate, they cost a lot more to repair. In addition, prices go up each year.”
Tilton said his priority is to fix the main roads first. The second year, he’s hoping to fix a subdivision, a main road, and a town parking lot. He said he’d like to squeeze in the town library parking lot into the first year, as well. He’s hoping to add a few greatly needed spaces there, too.
Tilton said that it’s easier to do a little each year, so the roads are easier to maintain at a lower cost. “We’re as efficient as we can be. But, adding staff will make us more efficient. We have a total of 12 laborers. If three are out sick or on vacation, a quarter of our staff is gone. We’re really in reactive mode, when proactive mode is where we want to be.”
Tilton’s priority roads include Main Street, Beale Avenue, and Old County Road. Among other priority locations are Route 130, Pimlico Pond Road, Dillingham Avenue, Greenville Drive, and Popple Bottom Road. Subdivision priorities include Canterbury Estates, Sandwich Beach Shores at Town Neck, and the Christopher Hollow subdivision.
Roads on a list for future improvement include (in alphabetical order) Asa Meiggs, Atkins Road, Bramblebush Drive, Chestnut Lane, Cotuit Road, Crestview Drive, Great Hill Road, Gully Lane, Howland Lane, John Ewer Road, Jones Road, Pickerel Way, Ploughed Neck Road, Sandy Neck Road, Service Road, Spring Hill Road, and Surrey Lane.
Among the parking lot priorities for Tilton are those at Sandwich Public Library, Sandwich Hollows, and the town offices on Jan Sebastian Drive (an influx of employees in engineering, planning, and building, who had been housed previously in the Town Hall Annex, have created the need for more parking.)
Secondary priorities for municipal parking lots include those at the DPW, Hoxie House, Oakcrest Cove, the Town Cemetery on Route 130, Bayview Cemetery on Main Street, the Boardwalk, Town Neck Beach, Wing School on Beale Avenue, Oak Ridge School, Forestdale School, Sandwich High School, and all school walkways and town sidewalks.
In addition to road work, Tilton cites a backlog of over 50 drainage facilities that need work.
“Facilities cost more to repair where drainage is done, just like roads. We try to keep good records. We do report cards, with pavement condition indexes.”
Tilton is seeking three new employees when he goes to Town Meeting. He’s looking for someone who can double as GIS analyst and an engineering assistant. And, at the DPW, he’s seeking an additional laborer, to bring to nine the total laborers in the highway and park departments.
Tilton was an assistant town engineer for six years, before being hired for the dual role of DPW director and town engineer seven years ago.
I asked if he had tried to get grants to support some of the work, and Tilton said he did.
“We’ve applied for grants. We had a mitigation grant which paid for the boardwalk design. We’ve also applied for construction money, but it seems to have dried up. Do we let things go or fix them? We’ve been filling potholes, but it’s like a Band-Aid. We’re looking for more permanent repairs.”
Fixing the roads is expensive. Not fixing them is even more expensive. Ask your car’s tires.
Town Meeting is going to have a lot of decisions. The town cannot possible afford all the requested funds, from all town departments, and especially the Sandwich School system. Some folks will leave Town Meeting disappointed that they didn’t get what they wanted. But homeowners aren’t happy with the highest tax rates on the Cape, and they are not going to go down anytime soon. I’d say, we’ll see them going up. But, if that means strong public safety, good schools, and safe roads, that can’t be all bad.