PEPPERELL — DPW Director Kenneth Kalinowski advised the Board of Public Works on Thursday that the Mill Street Bridge might be completed and opened to traffic by May 5 of this year.
“It’s looking more and more plausible,” said Kalinowski.
The bridge was closed last April and construction estimates at the time suggested it might be closed for as long as 18 months. The bridge includes a new section of 16-inch water main. Highway crews are expecting to replace older 8-inch sections adjacent to the bridge with similar 16-inch pipe to improve the flows to Nashua Road. The water-main upgrade was approved at last year’s annual Town Meeting.
Kalinowski noted that the DPW budget for Fiscal 2013 was submitted to the Finance Committee on Jan. 20. The budget included a level-funding scenario as well as a 1 percent budget increase scenario. The budget includes step-in-grade and union wage increases, as well as a 1.5 percent wage increase for by-law employees. Kalinowski explained that the Personnel Board recommended a 2 percent increase for by-law employees.
“Since the budgets were due to the Finance Committee by Jan. 20, and the budgets submitted by the DPW staff were in accordance with the Finance Committee and town administrator’s guidelines, they did not reflect that 2 percent potential increase,” he said.
“2011 was a very busy year for public works,” said Kalinowski.
“Although we’ve not had a lot of snow, that doesn’t mean that the cost has been zero. These little squalls that blow through at 5 in the morning and freeze — we still send the trucks out to sand and salt,” he said.
Kalinowski added that overtime costs have been way down as well as material costs for sand and salt.
Some changes for transfer station sticker sales and bag tags will begin soon. The transfer station will be eliminating the mail-in discount and will increase the rate to seniors 60 years of age and older by $4. Consideration is also being given to raising the minimum age for a senior discount.
“I was one of those who suggested that raising the age might be useful. If we do that, it would be complicated perhaps. If we decide to do that, we’d do it in one-year increments,” said Chairman Greg Rice.
Bag tags will increase by 20 cents each, rising from $9 for five tags to $10. Kalinowski expects the changes to increase revenue by $34,000 this year.
“We’re trying to remain revenue neutral if we can,” said Kalinowski.
“There was a significant increase in the operational costs due to rising insurance costs, as well as those operational costs that have been subsidized from the retained earnings over the years to the tune of $15,000,” he said.
Kalinowski explained that the current subsidy rate was nonsustainable, and that its depletion would “render us unable to cover any unexpected costs, capital investment, or upgrades at the facility.”
Water and Sewer Superintendent Laurie Stevens praised a new closed-circuit TV camera system that her department is now deploying in the field. The system enables inspections of water, sewer and drain pipe, ensuring the integrity of the distribution system. The system was used recently to identify two large cracks in a drainage pipe on Mill Street.
“It’s going to be very instrumental in meeting the requirements of the Department of Environmental Protection at getting all the sewer lines TV inspected,” said Stevens.
DEP paid a visit to the town’s composting facility recently to inspect the facility for annual permitting.
“Everything looks fine,” said Stevens.
“We’re working under the last permit until we get the new one in,” she said.
Stevens added that her staff has been undergoing various training sessions including electrical safety, eye safety, chain saw safety and others. Ongoing safety training results in reduced insurance costs for the town.
“The town saved approximately $10,000 in liability premiums, half of which was attributable to public works,” said Kalinowski.
Kalinowski further noted that DPW brought in approximately $20,000 to the town in savings and grant assistance, including a new safety trailer.
The Water Division has also been busy with ongoing maintenance and upgrades to its facilities and distribution system approved at last year’s annual Town Meeting. The Bemis Well will be cleaned out and rehabbed to improve its flow.
“This has to be done periodically to all wells,” said Stevens.
In addition to the Mill Street water-main upgrade, cleaning of wet wells at the nine pump stations will begin next week. The pump and motors at the Jersey Street well are scheduled to be removed and reconditioned beginning this week.
The Nashua Road well site is also nearing completion this spring.
“There are only a few items out there to finish up,” said Stevens.