FARMINGDALE — Faulty planning, a lack of bids and conflicts between engineers and selectmen, have caused a backlog of roadwork projects here, according to town highway department officials.

Road Commissioner Steve Stratton said he was holding back on advertising for a handful of projects, while about 10 others are squeezed in before the end of construction season. He has advertised 10 jobs this year.

“I could write several more, but I know they won’t be able to get done,” Stratton said. “I’m just concentrating on what needs to be done.”

Bids for four more projects, which include shoulder repair, ditching and culvert work, are due back Aug. 15.

Selectmen awarded an $80,000 bid last week to Buckfield-based D&D Excavating Inc. to dig ditches on Northern Avenue; another advertisement for paving on the same street went unanswered.

Assistant Clerk Natalie Jackson said the project will likely be advertised again in January. Advertising projects in the winter allows for ample planning time for both town staff to include money in the budget and contractors to allocate time, she said.

“I put it out twice back-to-back and no one bid on it,” Jackson said. “The selectboard thought because the contractors are busy (late in the season), they should put it back out in the winter.”

Three bids were accepted for other projects on Outlet Road, Smith Road and Bowman Street last week, totaling about $10,000. Selectmen have approved about $165,000 for roadwork projects this year.

A $275,100 spending plan for the highway department was approved at June Town Meeting, but more money than that is available for projects. A lack of road work in previous years, Stratton said, has given his department an ample reserve.

Town Clerk Rose Webster said about $230,000 was carried over from budgets in the last two years, along with some state money to improve roads. That means about $500,000 is available for use on queued roadwork projects. Moreover, town officials said about $162,000 is sitting in a reserve for drainage. Voters approved a $10,000 contribution to that reserve in June.

Webster said Stratton’s quick planning of roadwork, as well as an audit in September, sparked her to check town finances to see if the town could afford a flurry of expensive roadwork.

“Some of these projects surprise me with how much they cost,” she said. “I feel better now I know how much (is in the reserve).”

There also have been some technical problems with projects currently underway.

A project awarded to Wayne-based C.H. Stevenson a year ago to replace about half a dozen catch basins and storm drains in Hayford Heights, a large residential neighborhood, was halted last month after workers ran into unmarked water mains around Park Street. C.H. Stevenson project manager Adam Blake said his crews found the problem the first day they were on the job.

Stratton said the plans, commissioned from an engineer a few years ago, had no mains marked. The Gardiner Water District is now doing so, but no work can be done in the meantime. Blake said he did not know when work would start again, but Webster said it would likely be finished next year.

At a selectboard meeting last week, changes were suggested for the storm drainage project on Hasson Street and Almar Street, which was supposed to run under a resident’s property to access a natural drainage ditch. Selectmen were opposed to that plan, Jackson said, instead opting to explore running drainage downhill into the state’s lines along Maine Avenue. Their reason for doing so, she said, was they didn’t want to pursue an easement to use the land or create future problems the work on the property could cause for the owner.

“The selectboard said that they did not want it going across anybody’s property,” Jackson said in an email, “and that they wanted the storm drains following the roadway.”

Stratton said state engineers were checking their system to see if it could handle the influx in drainage. The state will have to sign off on the town’s connection to state-owned pipes for work to continue.

Another issue that recently cropped up is a cross pipe on Easy Street — a street within Hayford Heights — that failed due to a buildup of mud. Stratton said he was writing the scope of work for that project and it will be advertised as soon as possible. He is also working on advertisements for tree removal and drainage on First Street.

Stratton, who became road commissioner last year, is paid a $5,000 yearly stipend.

This article has been updated to correctly attribute a comment to Assistant Clerk Natalie Jackson, and correct that Buckfield-based D&D Excavating Inc. was awarded an $80,000 bid to to dig ditches on Northern Avenue.

Sam Shepherd – 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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