April 27 2016

Quality or Quantity? Selectmen Discuss Sidewalks

By: Rich Hosford

What kind of sidewalks should be built along different streets in Burlington? 


That was the question before the Board of Selectmen on Monday as they discussed a vote to support a Town Meeting Warrant article that would provide an additional $250,000 for sidewalk improvements on Bedford Street from Cambridge Street to Terrace Hall Avenue. The article backup says the funds are meant to upgrade the materials for the project from asphalt with bituminous curbing to granite curbing and concrete. 


Last year Town Meeting voted to up the funds for sidewalk repair from $50,000 to $100,000. Department of Public Works Director John Sanchez said doing this stretch, which is highly visible and part of the parade route for the town’s Memorial Day observances, will cost $350,000 if they go with the granite curbing and concrete. 


Sanchez said concrete and granite costs about $85 per foot while asphalt runs at about $30 per foot however they last much longer and are more durable against damage. 


The focus of the debate was quality versus quantity. Selectmen Mike Runyan said that because more people are using the sidewalks in town he thinks the priority should be to build or repair as much as possible to accommodate them. 


“My concern is if we put all of our resources in one small area and do granite and concrete, it’s nice, but I think community as a whole would be better served if we did more length,” he said, arguing that rather than doing the section listed above the town use the $350 to do the entire length of Bedford Street with asphalt. 


Selectman Chris Hartling said he used to feel the same way but after hearing from residents has changed his mind. 


“I at one point thought like you did,” he said. “Then I had the opportunity to be around people very passionate about the subject. It came up at Town Meeting and in other settings and the feedback I’ve gotten is that there is a preference for quality over quantity.”


Sanchez said he didn’t have a personal preference, but said he would like to ensure that no money slated for road repairs goes towards sidewalks. 


“It costs a lot more money to do sidewalks than roads and we have roads that need to be done,” he said. 


Town Administrator John Petrin said the town can afford this expense this year but shouldn’t make a habit of spending these amounts on sidewalks. In total Burlington has about 50 miles of sidewalks, meaning that if the town wanted to make them all concrete with granite curbing as they are fixed and replaced, it would cost about $22 million. 


“Can we afford $250,000 this year? Yes, but it cuts into free cash,” Petrin said. 


He suggested the policy moving forward might be to use granite and concrete in high visible roads and asphalt on secondary streets. 


In the end the board voted to approve the $250,000 warrant article be sent to Town Meeting but since it is written in a generic way decided to wait until the next meeting to decide which types of materials will be used. 

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