Residents have received a blizzard of news bulletins this summer about road work from the public works department.
The email news flashes announced numerous road closures, schedules for paving, patching and the installation of drainage systems.
“We have finished 15 projects and have several more under construction,” said Public Works Director Paul S. Tilton. “It has been pretty extensive.”
Mr. Tilton said his crews—as well as paving contractor P.J. Keating—have been kept very busy this spring and summer, but the public works director is not complaining.
“It has been wonderful having the money to do all this,” Mr. Tilton said. “We can plan and focus on many areas rather than just doing the worst roads every year.”
He was referring to a $6 million debt exclusion approved by Sandwich voters for road repairs at the 2018 May Town Meeting.
The money was approved after four years of almost no roads funding. The public works department struggled during that time to maintain the roads to minimal standards.
Funding through a debt exclusion vote means that, once residents approve a certain amount, the town borrows the money and pays the loan back through a temporary tax increase.
The voters agreed to a 15-year bond, which translated into a $75 a year increase (for a house worth $392,000), which will decrease every year over the life of the bond.
“It has really helped,” Mr. Tilton said during an interview this week. “We are up to our eyebrows in work—and happy about it.”
The crews have been concentrating on town projects, such as the stormwater drainage system installation and parking lot resurfacing at Town Neck Beach, Sandy Neck Road improvements, and resurfacing main roads and several subdivision roads, Mr. Tilton said.
Eight road projects are currently underway, and 20 more are planned over the next couple of years, Mr. Tilton said.
Some of the work involves the installation of new drainage systems, catch basins and swales. The crews are also resurfacing, patching, installing curbs and chip sealing.
When done correctly, and properly maintained, a road can last for 20 to 25 years, Mr. Tilton said, adding that some of Sandwich’s subdivision roads are 30 to 40 years old and must be totally reconstructed.
“After years of flooding and freezing and thawing, the roads blow apart and repairs are very expensive,” Mr. Tilton said. “Our goal is to get all the roads in good shape so that when the [debt exclusion] money is used up, we can maintain them.”
Last year, the board of selectmen sought long-term funding for the roads because voters in 2017 narrowly defeated a $1.3 million request for repairs to the town’s 150 miles of thoroughfares.
In 2014, the selectmen decided to pursue five consecutive annual capital outlays to fund the road work, with each annual outlay totaling $1.3 million.
The idea was to carve the repair program into smaller spending chunks, rather than risk defeat by asking voters for a one-time larger sum of borrowed money to pay for the entire program.
The measure passed the first year, the selectmen put the plan on hiatus in 2015, and voters again agreed in 2016 to tax themselves to pay the tab. In 2017, however, the measure was defeated at the polls by 17 votes.
The capital improvement planning committee and the finance committee suggested instead that the voters be asked to fund a one-time $5 million or $6 million road improvement package that would be used over the course of five years.
The selectmen agreed and rolled an additional $2 million for long-term boardwalk repairs into last year’s debt exclusion warrant article.