By SHERIDAN CYR
The Public Works department was the latest to present an update to the Town Council, and on Feb. 12 Public Works director Keith Hayden updated the council about his department’s activities.
Hayden presented recent and future projects in Southington that concern the engineering department, highway and parks department, as well as the updates to the sewer plant and sewer administration and plans for joining the rail-trail at the Plainville town line.
The presentation is part of an ongoing series during council meetings. Each month, the council has been inviting department heads to offer insight into the day-to-day functions in the town.
“This gives the public a great overview of what is going on in each department,” said chair Chris Palmieri. “We thought it was important to share this with the residents.”
In 2017, the department completed the West Center Street bridge deck replacement. The remaining work on the bridge has been designed and is expected to be complete this spring. Hayden reported the work is being completed under budget at this time.
The department also designed improvements for the Jude Lane intersection, which will provide an exclusive north-bound left turn lane and a new traffic signal; removed old, underground tanks under two fire departments; replaced the roof of the LEAF Farm cold storage building; and demolished two vacant buildings at 427 Pleasant St. and 752 Berlin St.
Public workers also designed the preliminary design of the completion of the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail from Lazy Lane to the Plainville Town Line. Businesses in town are reportedly excited about the trail coming through. The construction estimate is about $3.2 million, but 80 percent is federal funds and 20 percent is state funds.
“While my office is very busy coordinating the work of the different engineers and working with the dot consultant, it’s only costing us our time,” said Hayden. “That funding is coming right to our town.”
He said that the rail-trail is designed to have minor impact to property along the route. In order to work with those impacted businesses, economic director Lou Perillo made connections with the owners to share with them their plans.
“For some of them, their first question was, ‘How soon can you get this done?’” Hayden said. Some mentioned they would look into constructing connectors and walkways to reach the trail itself from the business. “They’ve been really supportive and really nice to work with.”
Hayden pointed out the Curtiss and Hart Street area of the trail design. The department seeks to realign the intersection and make it T-shaped with a much safer, three-way-stop crossing. That design was produced “in-house” with the help of a local transportation capital improvement program (LOTCIP) grant.
Hayden also talked about safety improvements to Plantsville center, which will also be funded by a LOTCIP grant at $2.5 million. The project is highly anticipated, but not moving forward until the town receives a letter of authorization from the LOTCIP program.
“We’ve made some progress, but the unfortunate truth is that LOTCIP funds may be endangered under the governors’ programs and some of his discretionary cuts,” Hayden said. “If the LOTCIP program goes away, these projects will be shifted to the Surface Transportation Program (STP) Urban Program.”
The downfall of the STP Urban program is it comes tied with heavier federal oversight and requirements to meet, and could potentially increase the cost.
Councilor Kelly Morrissey pointed out that the town would not start a project until all funds are guaranteed.
“We wouldn’t start something until funds are confirmed to the point where the feds cannot withdraw, because we know the state is pulling back on all sorts of grants,” she said. “We never want to be in a situation where we start something and then we’re stuck.”
Public Works looks as far out as 2020 with a “wish list” of improvement projects for Southington. Some of those projects include removal of underground storage tanks, installment of splash pads at Memorial Park, improvements to the concession building and basketball and tennis courts, new restroom facilities and field improvements.
The sewer department looks to improve pump stations, design the sewage plant upgrade project, repair pipe lining infrastructure, install a Vapex system and a sludge storage tank, improve odor control at the sewage plant, and many other projects. All of these projects come with a price, but Hayden said the department is constantly applying for state and federal grants to aid in financing the many improvements across the town.
“We’re always looking for new funding opportunities and if we can apply for them, we certainly do,” he said. “The department does an outstanding job applying for these grants and bringing money into the town.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.