Chip Sealing, a Four Million Dollar Nuisance?
After a large group of citizens made their concerns about chip sealing heard Tuesday night, The Pittsfield City Council has decided to terminate the paving method as an option for street resurfacing, but at what cost to the city?
Chip Sealing is the application of a special protective wearing surface to an existing pavement, usually a roadway with lower traffic. A dump truck full of chips (gravel) locks on to the chip spreader and is pulled backwards. A thin layer of liquid asphalt is sprayed down in front of the chip spreader. It's more cost effective than asphalt, however typically doesn't last as long and can eventually break down into small pieces of aggregate that can pose a nuisance.
The petition to discontinue the practice on accepted city streets passed 7-4, with Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi, Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Simonelli, and Councilors at Large Melissa Mazzeo and Earl Persip voting against.
When Councilor at Large Pete White was on Slater and Marjo in the Morning Tuesday, he noted that there are continuous complaints from constituents on chip sealing affecting their quality of life. Those complaints were echoed by citizens who spoke against chip sealing at the meeting, citing that as the surface of the road breaks down, the pebbles cause children to slip and fall, embed themselves in canine paws and destroy lawns.
Supporters of the process said chip sealing offers an important alternative in the event the city can't afford a full milling and paving job. According to The Berkshire Eagle Public Services Commissioner David Turocy said he tries to do 10 miles of road work each year so as not to fall behind. Currently the only way he can keep up with that is using chip sealing, and to honor the ban, he'd have to rebid summer road work and would likely not get to all the roads scheduled for the coming season. He'll need four million dollars over the next two years to fulfill the department's roadwork schedule without chip sealing.
Am I the only one who thinks this is a little crazy? I grew up on a chip sealed road, and now live on a chip sealed road, off of another chip sealed road, and most of the streets in my neighborhood are in fact, you guessed it, chip sealed. I played endless hours of roller hockey on a chip sealed road as a kid, my lawn is not destroyed, I walk my dog on those streets every day, and he has never had an issue with his paws. The children in my neighborhood are constantly biking, rollerblading and playing on those chip sealed streets. People who choose to live in rural areas don't complain about living on dirt roads, so if you are fortunate enough to live in a low traffic area, maybe having a chip sealed road is just one of the sacrifices you make.
I clearly understand that I'm in the minority, but I can't help but think when the city CANNOT afford to mill and repave these chip sealed streets, these same people will complain about the potholes. For a city that is already beyond strapped for cash, coming up with FOUR MILLION dollars for the next two years, just to keep up on needed work, seems to be a pretty tall order.