BETHLEHEM — The Town Board approved the Highway Department’s 2019 Street Maintenance Plan at its Aug. 28 meeting, which showed which town streets were improved last year and which need attention this year.
This Maintenance Plan, which is basically the department’s Paving Program, is technically not new as it was originally presented and approved by the board on June 13, 2018. Regarding the word “improved,” Highway Superintendent John “Tiger” Anastasi said his department handles over 175 miles of town roads, which require maintenance, assessment, repaving and resurfacing.
According to the town’s website, the department’s resurfacing program “is designed to pave 12 to 13 miles of roadway each year. This schedule allows us to resurface each town road every 12 to 13 years.”
The Maintenance Plan costs around $750,000, Anastasi said, adding that a hair over $400,000 of which comes from state funding through the state Department of Transportation and the rest is from the department’s operating budget.
Town roads are assessed every other year, Anastasi said, and are based on the blacktop’s age, the volume and weight of traffic, their sub-base’s structural stability and the effects of the winter seasons.
Speaking of blacktop, while a blacktop pavement can stay in efficient shape for years, it can quickly deteriorate when it begins wearing out.
If this is not discovered in time, it can become a hazard for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, and it would be more costly and require labor-intensive work to remedy it.
Also, the department uses a numerical scheme from one to 10 — with one being the worst quality and needing full reconstruction, and 10 being excellent and requiring no maintenance — to assess pavement conditions in town and how much potential maintenance would be. According to the then-submitted 2019 maintenance plan application, the department noted that many town roads were rated five or six, indicating they need preventative treatments but are not too costly.
The plan also outlined which roads were improved last year and which need attention this year, along with how much tonnage was or would be used for each specific road. Twenty-seven roads were improved in 2018 and 39 more are intended to be addressed this year. In addition, it repaved 6.52 miles of town roads in 2018 and has deferred 9.85 miles to this year; regarding tonnage, it used 6,551 tons of asphalt in 2018 and has deferred 9,839 tons to this year.
He said that the department realistically repaves eight to 12 miles of town roads annually but noted that it goes more by tonnage as some roads require thicker amounts of asphalt so looking at it in terms of linear mileage is not always the most accurate lens.
When Town Board member Maureen Cunningham asked if the aforementioned repaved 6.52 mile-figure from 2018 was considered lower than expectations, Anastasi said, “It’s less than what we want to but we were busier with handling more sidewalks and brush and as the town is growing, … I’m trying to implement more practices to be more efficient so that next year, we will do more.”
In a follow-up phone interview, Anastasi said, “Last year, we may not have done as much as we wanted because we had terrible weather. The fall was rough and had early snow. The spring cleanup was extremely heavy, so we had to prioritize a little. The Highway Department is still short on manpower and we try to do more with less, and we’re staying afloat. Anything that puts a bump on the road causes us downtime. When it rains, we lose two days. We have to take eyes off to do heavy brush pickup. That manpower has to come from somewhere.”
Bringing up that the department has 57 employees from laborers to in-house mechanics and equipment operators, he said, “We’re taking care of 35,000 people in town and that’s a lot for 57 employees. We’re going to have to change and hire some people or we’re not going to keep up.” He did note that the department benefits from subsidizing some of its labor with a number of people from the Glenmont Job Corps Center which he sees as a “great asset to us.”
At the board meeting, he added that road maintenance works are still ongoing and around 4,000 tons of asphalt have been laid down on town roads this year as of Aug. 28. Ahead, he said the department has around eight more weeks for paving and will officially continue on the week of Sept. 8 due to Labor Day. “We will start working at Salisbury Road,” he said.
“I’m very proud of my guys and they’re out there working, and I don’t even care what time it is in the middle of winter, they’re there,” Anastasi concluded. “The job is not going to get done without these guys. They’ve learned some new techniques and they’ve learned some concrete work.
“A lot of our staff on the labor force are on the older side of the spectrum and some are getting tired but they’re still stepping up and doing it. A lot of them are nearing retirement and we need to replenish from younger generations. They’re still giving us all they have and that says a lot about the Highway Department.”