By LINDSAY CAREY
Town Council Chairman Michael Riccio shared his take on the town’s use of chip seal as a part of the road maintenance and road reconstruction project, in response to recent criticism from residents and fellow Town Councilors regarding this method of road pavement.
At the Southington Town Council meeting on Monday, Feb. 23, Riccio started off by praising the road maintenance and reconstruction program, which he said was established one or two councils ago.
“Road maintenance hasn’t been done in Southington, at least as long as I have been around. I don’t think ever, and it’s something that you don’t see a lot of in any of our neighboring communities,” said Riccio.
In the last two years, voters approved two of the referendums calling for $11 million to be used for road maintenance and road construction. Riccio said that he wanted to acknowledge the residents who are not pleased with the chip seal, which is a road maintenance method.
“I did my own personal survey, and I found it to be that about a third love it, a third hate it, and a third are indifferent to it,” said Riccio, who said he spent time talking to residents in the area where the chip sealing process was used.
The council chair explained that the town’s main reasons for using chip seal was to provide longevity for the roads and save taxpayers’ money.
Riccio shared that the council, town manager, and the engineering department will all begin working together next Wednesday to figure out ways to improve the road maintenance program.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to perhaps enhance our chip sealing process so we can eliminate some of the concerns of the excess stones that are coming out this past winter, and I’m also excited to look at other options,” said Riccio. “We’re on it. We’re excited to enhance it if we have to. We look forward to getting some answers to a lot of our questions over the next couple of weeks.
Town Councilor Chris Palmieri said that he is glad that they are beginning to explore some alternatives, because he said the current condition of the roads “creates the impression that the work is unfinished.”
“Some residents, I think, believe that we’re still coming out to finish the roads and that they’re not quite done,” said Palmieri.
Riccio said it doesn’t matter if the roads look unfinished if the work is done. Aesthetics shouldn’t matter. Regardless of the surface the town ends up using for road maintenance, Riccio said it is the town’s responsibility to educate residents about the state of the roads.
“If we can save a lot of money and it doesn’t look like a perfectly, newly paved road then we need to let people know that that’s what it’s going to look like,” said Riccio. “We also need to let them know that, in exchange for that little bit of a rough look, you’re going to save a couple hundred million dollars.”
Town Councilor Miceli, who was one of the first to speak out publically in opposition to using chip seal on the roads, said that Chairman Riccio challenged her to find a solution to the chip seal problem after she spoke out against the use of rubberized chip sealing in town.
Miceli found another road maintenance surface known as Nova Chip Overlay or Ultra Chip Bonded HMA.
“It’s being used in over thirty states and in different communities around the country,” said Palmieri of Miceli’s suggested alternative method Nova Chip Overlay.
Miceli shared that the road life expectancy is much longer with this method than it is with chip seal.
“What I have gleaned from my research is that the life expectancy of the rubberized chip sealing road is not as much as we had been told by staff,” said Miceli. “In fact, it’s only six to eight years versus this Nova Chip Overlay… is a ten to twelve year life expectancy.”
She also noted that Nova Chip Overlay has a smoother surface than chip seal.
“It will take away from the asphalt chips that can fly up and hit your car and your children,” she said. She also shared the reason why chip seal is ceasing to be used as a road maintenance method by communities in Conn. and around the country.
“In talking to a respected civil engineer, I was told that the problem with chip sealing in subdivisions is that it becomes a maintenance issue in terms of the build-up of the asphalt chips and the degree and gravel in our catch bases, specifically the sump,” said Miceli. “Chip sealing will require more frequent vacuuming of our sumps, because you’re accumulating gravel.”
Despite Miceli’s research, Councilors Riccio and Victoria Triano said they plan to look at all of the options provided by professionals in the field before choosing the best road maintenance method.
Triano emphasized that she believes the council as a whole is in support of changing the process after hearing residents’ concerns about the chip seal.
“We have residents that have called us and written to us, so we’ve heard the residents,” said Triano. “This is exactly how the system is supposed to work. We’re supposed to make our best decisions that we can come up with. We take that shot at it, and if it doesn’t work we step back and say what’s our next best solution?”