TIVERTON — ‘Twas the day before Christmas at 7 a.m., when a pay loader, dump truck, and a handful of men, went to Cynthia Avenue to patch up some holes, with three-quarter inch gravel to make it a road, passable this winter by plows when it snows.
After two-and-a-half days of work on the road, said Department of Public Works (DPW) Director Steve Berlucchi, temporary repairs had been completed and the road smoothed with new gravel by late Friday morning. The total cost was calculated at $4,649, of which $2,189 was for 151 tons of gravel, with the balance for equipment and crew. “The road should be plowable,” Mr. Berlucchi said.
The holiday season work on the road was more than routine maintenance. It had been ordered by the council and was being done with some urgency. Nearly everyone who knew the road considered it impassable. It needed fixing, quick, before the snow fell.
“I think the decision the Town Council made is a fair one at this time. It’s a temporary resolution and what they did was fair,” said Aubrey Gloddy as she stood on Cynthia Avenue the day before Christmas, while the work she and other residents had asked for was just getting started.
Ms. Gloddy lives at the East end of 800-foot-long Cynthia Avenue, where it intersects with Crandall Road. Her father is Bryan Sanford, who owns an auto and truck parts business at the other (west) end of Cynthia Avenue and whose vehicles and customers travel Cynthia Avenue daily.
Between them about eleven residences border the road.
Ms. Gloddy said she and her father had hired a lawyer, Patrick J. Dougherty, to speak for them at the special council meeting when the decision was made to fix their street.
The residents along Cynthia Avenue had demanded immediate attention from the Town Council. They had all received a letter in November from DPW Director Steve Berlucchi, saying that the condition of the road was so bad that the road could not be plowed this winter. That mobilized the residents. Nearly all of them were present in Town Hall at a special town council meeting last Thursday, Dec. 19, called for the purpose of hearing their complaints.
At the meeting, Town Councilors Jay Lambert, Denise deMedeiros, and President Ed Roderick weighed in. They had all recently attempted to traverse the troublesome road, and turned back (Councilor Lambert), or got stuck (Councilor deMedeiros), or bottomed out (Council President Roderick).
After talking about the problem for nearly three hours, the Council had voted unanimously to make “temporary” repairs to Cynthia Avenue, “to allow safe passage of snow plows and public safety vehicles.”
Before the work on Cynthia Avenue could even begin, however, all residents on the road were required by the council to agree in writing to accept the temporary fix.
All did, and the work started the Tuesday before Christmas.
“I think it’s a good thing. It’s a town road,” said Dave Quintal about the road repair work he drove through while work was getting underway.
Other roads, and looming problems
The council decision could have a ripple effect on similarly situated roads in town. Hints of future problems with other roads in town are thick in the air.
At the special council meeting, as Cynthia Avenue residents were complaining about their road, Jim Costa, who said he lived on Bolducs Lane in Tiverton, just across Crandall Road from Cynthia Avenue, stood and told the council about similar problems on his road.
“My road is in the same kind of condition. I sympathize with these people. I applaud them for continuing on. I’ve been dealing with it on my laneway for several years. I agree with Mr. Berlucchi. This will open up Pandora’s box.”
Mr. Costa was referring to comments Mr. Berlucchi had made at the council meeting.
There are nine gravel roads in Tiverton, according to Mr. Berlucchi, five of which the council had voted not to accept. The sixth was Cynthia, which, though not accepted, was about to get fixed as a result of a council decision. Other gravel roads include Sawdy Pond Road, and Indian Hill Road, whose residents have concerns about their road.
Mr. Berlucchi told the council that gravel road repairs would likely be needed to be repeated.
Mr. Berlucchii also told the council there were 163 other private roads in Tiverton, whose status — and the mixed bag of services the town provides to them — creates an unclear situation.
Mr. Berlucchi also said the council had already voted to deny services (except for rubbish pick up) to 33 roads in town.
And on the day before Christmas, as work was starting on Cynthia Avenue, Mr. Berlucchi said he’d received a telephone call from a Frazier Avenue resident, complaining about potholes on her private and unaccepted road, wondering when the town would fix her road.
Mr. Berlucchi had previously noted another area in town that has become a problem for DPW. “Snow plow frames are dragging bottom and the Town no longer plows a section from Anthony Way to Edmund Lane.”
With all the different roads, of different character (private, accepted, unaccepted, gravel, impassable by plows, etc.), on the table for discussion, the concern arose, who would or should maintain and service the roads when they present problems of the sort confronting the residents of Cynthia Avenue.
Town Solicitor Andrew Teitz said, “The town does not budget capital funds for road maintenance. That’s going to require taxes. You don’t have the money to do the catch up on the roads. The only way to do it is on a bond basis.”
Other issues abound. Councilor Jim Arruda said, “one reason we’re here tonight is the lack of consistency. What streets get serviced and which don’t.”
He said, “the issue with that is, is you make a decision for one street not to get serviced, and any other street with the same complications also should not be serviced as well.”
“They all have different fact patterns,” said Mr. Teitz. ‘You can’t do none or all,’ he said, “you have to decide on a case-by-case basis.”
Council President Edward Roderick agreed with the case-by-case approach, adding the qualifier, “if they bring it before us.”
He was referring to the action by the Cynthia Avenue residents, who demanded action by the council, or the recommendations of the Tiverton Street Committee — which, however, hasn’t met since May, 2012 and does not have a full membership anyhow.
About the non-functioning street committee, Mr. Roderick said, “we’re going to get more people involved and get it up and running soon.”