In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) took the first steps yesterday to restore Linden Avenue, the only road leading to a peninsula where 400 families live. The hurricane surge undermined the roadway when huge rocks broke loose from beneath the road. The Pawson Park neighborhood was virtually stranded.
Saying this was an emergency, the BOS held a special meeting Monday afternoon at Town Hall, where it unanimously waived bids to hire a company to stabilize the slope under Linden Avenue. The board also discussed Phase II of the project, which includes repairing the seawall, sections of which are in disarray.
In a separate action, the BOS also approved a request to waive bids to purchase four emergency generators, to be used in the Short Beach area where Beckett Avenue, like Linden Avenue, was seriously compromised. Both avenues face beach fronts.
Janice Plaziak, the town engineer, told the BOS “that at this point we need to get action on this. This is a dire emergency right now,” she said, adding that the Linden Avenue roadway had eroded more deeply in the last week.
First Selectman Unk DaRos went further. “I am a little bit concerned just as Janice is that we not only have taken land that has encroached on the neighbors to make passage for other neighbors but if there is further erosion this could complicate things. Secondly underneath that road is sewer, water and gas and these mains are put in with the intention that gravity is key. But the road has been compromised laterally,” he said.
Plaziak (pictured) said she first consulted Gregg Fedus of Fedus Engineering, LLC in Madison. He had walked the seawall with Plaziak awhile ago. He and PInder Construction Co., of Clinton submitted a proposal to the town to restore and stabilize the damaged slope using armor stone. Another company, Blakeslee Arpaia Chapman, of Branford, also submitted a bid to restore the slope, which has suffered “severe erosion,” its letter said. Both bids came in at about $300,000.
DaRos said both bids were “nearly identical” on the materials to be used and the price. “Time is of the essence,” he said. After 40 minutes of discussion, Second Selectman Fran Walsh made a motion to give Blakeslee the contract because the company is based in Branford and “it is the fair thing to do.” First Selectman Unk DaRos and Third Selectman John Opie agreed.
Plaziak said “what I expressed to both companies is that we wanted to do a repair to the slope so that we can see the road stabilized and back in service but with an eye to the future about potential work on the seawall.” The seawall aspect of the project, Phase II, will specifically involve the Linden Shores Association. That part of the project could cost millions, DaRos said. Several members of the Linden Shores District Board of Directors were present as was its president, Louise LaMontagne. She left the meeting smiling, saying she was happy with the progress and with the speed with which the town acted.
Blakeslee said in its proposal it would take 12 days of work and the work will start right away. Plaziak said some stone at the site can be salvaged. She said she thought the Stony Creek Quarry, which the town owns, was a good resource for stone but it was not clear the Quarry’s stone would be available “when we need it,” she said. And, she added, the Stony Creek quarry might not have enough stone for the project at this time.
DaRos said: “The worst case scenario is that we don’t use the Stony Creek quarry and we have to haul from elsewhere.” But he wants to use Stony Creek stone because “first we already own the stone. So my suggestion would be for us to get as much of the stone out of the Stony Creek Quarry as possible.” That way trucks would not have to come longer distances, he added. DaRos said in a subsequent interview the town is allowed 500 tons of Quarry stone each year.
DaRos said at the meeting that thousands of tons of stone (between 4,800 and 8,400 tons roughly) required for the project would mean the use of 250 trucks “just to give you an idea of what we are going to have to do down there. It is substantial. “
Plaziak also discussed the various sections of the sea wall, some still intact and some in ruins. Both companies will be asked to do exploratory studies on sea wall construction as well. Phase II is to design a long term solution to the problem, including a seawall.
Opie asked if the Linden Avenue project would qualify for FEMA funds, (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) with FEMA contributing 75 percent of the cost and the town picking up the remaining 25 percent. DaRos said he expected it would.
However, Plaziak informed DaRos that Linden Avenue was not considered a “collector” road. Rather it is classified, she said, as a “local” road and would not qualify for one aspect of FEMA funding—highway funds—unless its designation is changed. DaRos said he would move to get the designation changed as quickly as possible.
DaRos told the Eagle he hoped the first phase of the project, would take between four to five weeks and be completed by the end of October. “We want to give the lawns back to the residents as quickly as we can,” he said. (Residents voluntarily gave up their front lawns for a temporary road.) Phase II will start in the spring, he said.