Chairman’s View: Improve our planning for Town building maintenance

New Canaan Town Council Chairman John Engel’s weekly guest column. New Canaan Town Council Chairman John Engel
First, let’s talk about the 100-point Pavement Condition Index (PCI). When a road scores above 86% PCI it’s excellent, requiring only corrective maintenance: crack sealing at about a $1 per square yard. Between 85% and 75% PCI a road is “good” and requires micro-thin overlays and cape seals at approximately $5 per square meter. When a road falls below 75% the road shouldn’t merely be patched, it must be repaved or reconstructed at a price of between $22 and $60 per square yard. “Very good” roads should be maintained for minimal investment and stretched to over 30 years of life.
In 2003, New Canaan’s roads scored 77% and in danger of needing reconstruction. Our Public Works department presented a 20-year plan in order to get our score back to 85% with the greatest efficiency. Unfortunately, between 2004 and 2008 the price of asphalt rose with the price of oil from $50 to $92 per ton and even with steady investment New Canaan’s average pavement quality declined to 74% below which roads need complete rebuilding.
And yet every year we challenge Tiger Mann, the head of Public Works, with questions designed to cut that road budget. Every year he patiently explains the math behind our most efficient system to get the Pavement Condition Index (PCI) from a score of 74% in 2009 to a score that is currently 81%. Every year our roads naturally deteriorate 2.5%. If we spend $2 million then the road quality stays about the same. Spending $2.5 million per year has allowed our PCI to rise about a half-point per year toward that goal. The Eversource road-paving investment amounts to about $3 million over five years and allows us to finish our 20-year plan in about 18 years, hopefully by 2021.
We have not managed the maintenance of our buildings with the same discipline and consistency we have applied toward our roads. This has caused some of us on Town Council to ask the obvious question, “Can we put together a building maintenance program, consistently funded at $1 to $2 million per year, that allows us to chip away at our $20 to $40 million obligation to repair and restore the 56 buildings that the Town owns?” 
First, 50% of that budget is Waveny House. If we are serious about Waveny we must wrap our heads around $1 million per year for the next 20 years. The second step is to identify the buildings that the Town should not own. Legally protect (with conservation easements) and then sell those buildings which are inefficient and inappropriate for a town to own and maintain: the Vine Cottage, the Police Station, the Outback, the Irwin House and Irwin Barn, the Gores Pavilion and the New Canaan Playhouse head that list.