Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Town halfway through road project but budget challenges loom

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
October 4, 2006

VERNON - The $19.2 million road reconstruction project is about halfway complete and within budget, but increasing fuel and asphalt costs could become problematic during the next phase of work, officials said.

During Tuesday night's Town Council meeting, Town Administrator Christopher Clark provided a status report on the project, which was approved by town voters in November 2004.

So far, roughly a dozen roads have been completed and another handful is in the midst of construction.

Another dozen roads, including Center Road, Prospect Street, Brandy Hill Road, and Bolton Road, are scheduled for reconstruction during the next three years, Clark said.

But going forward, Clark said, could be complicated because of a spike in gas and asphalt prices.

Clark provided numbers showing that gas has increased more than a dollar since 2004, when prices were $1.30 a gallon.

Asphalt also has increased in price, rising from $40 per ton to $60 per ton.

Despite the increased construction costs, Clark said, the town is committed to delivering the projects promised to voters before the 2004 referendum.

"It's awfully hard to predict the future," Clark said. "We're going to try to take some of the lessons from the past and use them for the future."

One way the town has saved money during the project was to enlist the services of the Department of Public Works, which has contributed services to the reconstruction of Jan Drive, Scott Drive, Gottier Drive, Irene Drive, and the northern section of Bolton Road, Clark said.

DPW workers are expected to help pitch in on the reconstruction of Ironwood Drive, Brandy Hill Road, and Hatch Hill Road, officials said.

The town also saved money by consolidating its engineering service contract with Cardinal Engineering of Meriden.

Originally, those costs were expected to be about $2.6 million.

But now, those costs stand at about $1.98 million, officials said.

Clark said the planned reconstruction of a bridge on Dart Hill Road has been pushed off to 2010 because the structure is in better condition than first realized.

And while cost factors are expected to be a sticky issue as the project goes forward, there also will be logistical issues.

Next year's planned reconstruction of Center Road is expected to take most of the construction season, which typically runs from early spring to November.

Mayor Ellen L. Marmer said town and school officials are working to ensure that construction disruptions will be minimal for students at Center Road School.

"That road is going to be a major headache to be done," Marmer said. "We have to start as early as we can in the spring on these long-term projects."

In other business, the Town Council voted 10-0 to formally accept 13 optical scan voting machines, which will be used during all federal, state, and municipal elections, starting with the Nov. 7 state election.

Vernon is one of 25 municpalities around the state using the new machines during the November election.

Eventually, all towns will be required to use the new technology, which requires voters to fill in bubbles to indicate their vote.

The completed ballot is then fed into the machine, which counts the votes, and the ballots are stored for recount purposes, officials said.

Town used a similar system during budget referendums and the August Democratic primary, Judith A. Beaudreau, Democratic registrar of voters said.

"This is twentieth-century technology, not twenty-first," Beaudreau said. "It's been around for 30 years."

©Journal Inquirer 2006