The Mayor's Roundtable Podcast

Sidewalks With DPW Director Marlo Warner

November 01, 2022 City of Greenfield, Massachusetts Season 1 Episode 1
The Mayor's Roundtable Podcast
Sidewalks With DPW Director Marlo Warner
Show Notes Transcript

A discussion of the City's sidewalk paving program including the rating system for sidewalks, how the City decides which sidewalks to replace, how sidewalk upgrades are funded and the responsibilities of property owners when it comes to sidewalks. 

Episode also includes a Municipal Minute on how to contact City government. 


(Intro Music)

MAYOR:  Welcome to the Mayor's Roundtable. A podcast, whereby, I Roxann Wedegartner, mayor of Greenfield, will be conducting conversations on a regular basis with the people who work for the city of Greenfield, department heads, but citizens as well. And this is a maiden voyage for us. This this is our first podcast. I'm very much looking forward to many more podcasts. So with that what I would like to do is introduce our first guest for the mayor's Roundtable and that is DPW director Marlo Warner. 

MARLO WARNER: Thank you. It's good to be here.

MAYOR: So the subject for today, Marlo, and this is a maiden voyage for you too. Right? Have you ever done a podcast before? 

MARLO WARNER: No I have not. 

MAYOR: But you're used to talking in public. 


MAYOR: Okay, so the subject for the day Marlo is sidewalks and as you and I well know, that is something that the residents of Greenfield are gravely concerned about from time to time. I would say that a great deal of the concerns that come through the Mayor's Office have not a majority certainly, but Have to do with sidewalks and what can be done about the sidewalk in front of my house, the sidewalk two streets over where I walk to go to the grocery store. Whatever it is. This is a walkable City. We encourage it and we should do everything we can to accommodate the Walkers of Greenfield and myself included.

I won't talk to you about the one in front of my house this morning, but that's alright. So at any rate today's podcast is all things sidewalk and let me start director Warner with a question about hopefully you can give us a brief description of how the DPW handles the sidewalks. I know that you give me lists from time to time. I'm looking at an updated list and it appears that we have we we place them in it appears to be two categories. Maybe three.

We have sidewalk reconstruction program sidewalk overlay program be helpful to it's maybe obvious by the terms, but it may be helpful to define the differences. And then it looks like we have one called sidewalk replacement overlay list. Maybe it's all of a piece and there's really only two ways to categorize. You tell us. 

MARLO WARNER: Okay. Thank you, Mayor. So to start off the city has approximately 78 miles of sidewalk linear feet 78 miles of linear feet and we do have three different categories that we rate in our engineering department. One is a complete reconstruction of concrete. Um, we also have to explain the overlay list is blacktop overlay on the outskirts for out of the the inner urban areas. Sometimes we have to Overlay a walk that's in really bad condition and we need to address it for safety reasons. And the third list is it pulls off the the original reconstruction list of of sections of sidewalk that we can do in-house with our in-house staff with our Highway Department. So those are the three major lists. 

MAYOR: So does that mean in Marlow that in some cases? We hire outside contractors to handle our sidewalks or is it just whenever a certain area of the street is being done by an outside contractor, they ill also include the sidewalks?


MARLO WARNER: Yes, most of our long distances as we put Capital together and we're appropriated funding. Let's say the $200,000 we generally put out a fairly large contract with a contractor, as as we can't get to the longer distances with our in-house crews. So whatever leftover funding is there say the bid comes in at $170,000. We have $30,000 for in-house replacement on the smaller portions of walkways that are in poor condition that we do with our Highway crew. 

MAYOR: Oh good. So just so the public understands the paving of sidewalks the replacement of sidewalks the exactly what we're talking about that is considered a capital expense and it is funded through the capital budget as long as we're talking money. I think something that people don't really understand, perhaps, is exactly how much it costs to replace even a small portion of a sidewalk, but can you give us a general idea of how you price out sidewalks and what theh I don't knowh the average maybe not even an average, but just generally what does it what is involved? What is the amount of money per square foot or yard or however you do it?

MARLO WARNER: So when when we run up a capital request, we we have to figure out the the square yardage of cement that's going to be used to replace existing a number is put to that currently the number sits at a hundred and fifty dollars a square yard in place complete. So that's removable. 

MAYOR: It's not insignificant for a small section.

MARLO WARNER: No not when you're talking about 10 feet by five feet on average.

So in-house, we do it a little a little cheaper. We're around probably a hundred and ten dollars a square yard. Well, it's significant $40 a square yard, but generally when we contract out contractors do this work every day, and they're pretty darn efficient at covering quite a lot of square yardage. That's the main reason why we don't do the long yardages because we have other priorities with the Highway Department. The sidewalks are just as important the infrastructure as highways water sewer infrastructure. So that's how we go about it.

MAYOR: Okay, and I see that you have a rating system-- one through five. Can you give us a little bit of information on that rating system and how one might decide how you might decide that one is well, excellent is pretty obvious bound to be brand new sidewalk maybe or a few years old, and it has maybe even some minor issues but one is being excellent. But then if you'd go down the list and kind of briefly decide how you make choices. Most of what I'm seeing here on your list for 2022 are threes and fours and a few fours and fives..

MARLO WARNER: Right. Our rating system is one through five. And as you indicated mayor one is the best condition excellent in five is very poor the list that we put together that we updated this year is only cover in the some of the threes through the five because obviously those are the in the poorest condition and we want to get to them first.

So sometimes when we have to do a sidewalk the roadway repaving has affected it an example is Hope Street last year. We had to go in and replace the walk. I think it was a three to a four, when there's no grass belt or tree belt between the sidewalk and the road so we go in and we put a brand new road in we don't want to have to dig the edge of that road up a couple years from now to replace the walkway with no tree belt. So sometimes a four may sneak ahead of a five only because it what need is what needs to be done at the time to prevent actually ruining a good road we put in two or three years down the road.

So currently you have the the threes fours and fives 

MAYOR: What does a sidewalk have to look like to be say a four or a five?

MARLO WARNER: So that that's an interesting question because everyone who goes out and evaluates a sidewalk would probably rate them differently. Sometimes a half a mile a sidewalk, I'm thinking of Haywood Hastings area. There may be 400 foot sections. That's a one or two, but then you'll have a 30 40 foot area. That's a five where the where we call the slabs of concrete have raised on the seam and created tripping hazards.

So sometimes it's not a complete replacement of a whole street. Sometimes we have to replace certain sections and I think on our list we indicate, you know between what streets and how many feet. So that's how we evaluate the roads some sections come in four to five but the short sections and those are the in-house projects that we're trying to tackle. So we have a good street at least on the east side, west side, north side, whichever it may be by piecing or replacing the bad sections of those walks. 

MAYOR: So I'm gonna pick one just in terms of what you said before the current pricing of sidewalks. This is actually an overlay as opposed to a reconstruction, but is 125 a square yard, did you say?


MAYOR: 150 a square yard. So and this is just a random example from the list. I'm not picking on a street per se, but for instance the Crescent Street the north side of Crescent Street on the overlay program is from Highland Ave up to number 89 Crescent Street. So that's a thousand two hundred and ninety five feet. And the square yardage on that at 150 dollars a square yard is 647.5. So that's a significant, it's rated a 3 to a four that's a significant cost and I'm wondering how you prioritize when Crescent Street at three and four, say gets done versus a more comparable one on Orchard Street at approximately the same maybe a little bit more or any others. How does how do you decide which ones if you have a regular way of deciding get done say over others? I, I'm looking at the overlay list and obviously you're probably going to deal with the four to five's sooner rather than later. But now you have a long list of three to Fours. What is the distinction? How do you make a choice?

MARLO WARNER: So the current list is approximately 10 years old, and we want to update we want to do a complete update to all the the walkways in Greenfield. It's been a while. We need to do a survey. It's very time consuming. So what we do is we'll take the threes and fours because they haven't been evaluated in a while and if we have say the funding to overlay one of them, it's all about the square footage and what we have funding for one might be shorter than the other but in the same condition or one has deteriorated more than the other in the last four or five years, then we pop it to a four or five and that becomes the priority as long as we have the funding.

MAYOR: Okay. Well, thank you for that and it is time. I understand for a break. So we will break and be back very shortly.



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(Music fades)

MAYOR: All right, we are back. I hope you enjoyed the Municipal Minute ad. And, moving right along with Director Warner of the DPW. We are talking all things sidewalk today. As I mentioned before, and you're well aware because you put it in your capital budget every year, this is a line item in the capital spending budget and there's many different ways we can fund capital projects some of and we typically fund infrastructure projects through our capital budget if they are over $25,000. And as you can tell imagine it $150 a square yard, most of the sidewalk stuff will be in the capitals.

So we can borrow. We can take it out of capital stabilization this different ways. But, every now and then we get lucky and we get to go for a grant that will help pave sidewalks and we're currently working on one. Would you tell us a little bit about that?

MARLO WARNER: Yes. Currently working with our grants writer Athena, and my department and also working with the the CDA Commission on disability access we've put in for what we call a MOD Grant. A Massachusetts office on disability Grant. And it currently, we put in for Columbus Ave between Allen and Grove which abuts a development over there. It's in Fairly bad shape rates at a three a few improvements Davis at Ames School at Ames And some ADA improvements on some railings so grants don't come along very long for very much for replacement of sidewalk. Obviously, we have grants that we can get for new sidewalk, which just recently happened this summer up in the high school area through the complete streets program.

So it doesn't come along very often when we get a mod Grant and there's another Grant we're working on the Safe Routes to Schools. That's a partnership with Athena, as the grants writer, the DPW, and obviously the school department. So we have some of our worst sidewalks right across the street from the middle school. And for this grant Abbott, Woodley, Pond, Walnut, Leonard, North, and Union streets always they all fall within the perimeter of this grant. It's all within a certain perimeter. 

MAYOR: Yes. I'm looking at that right now on the sidewalk where you construction program. So Pond Street is a bonafide five. Yes, just as an example. 

MARLO WARNER: Yes one side's half grass. It's so bad. So we're hoping these grants come through. It would be a really good as they say shot in the arm for these fives and fives that are used quite frequently-- not just by children walking to school, but students walking to school their parents their parents.

As we all know, mode of walking has increased in the city. That's been very evident. So they're very highly used. Those cross streets to get to Federal Street Main Street. So on and so forth. So we're hoping to hear from both these grants, I Believe by the end of the year the end of December and we hope this construction season that this will be some additional funding to take care of some of our more poor sidewalk. So to speak

MAYOR: That's great. That's that's really good to hear and and we've been doing pretty well these days with grants. So my fingers are crossed as well. And I did. Speaking there was a constituent in in the Mayor's Office recently. Well as recent is a half hour ago who was out for a walk on Wells Street and really was concerned about the condition of the sidewalk and Wells Street and I see on this reconstruction list at a three to four you have some sections of well Street as well, in fact quite a bit of Wells Street, so that's great. And I hope we get to that because I think she was talking about the sections of Wells Street where we do have a lot of pedestrians.

I think that I recall you are mentioning anytime we talk about funding sidewalks, that one of the ways we do save money. And as I said, we're always very concerned about that is we do do do design and an engineering of it the sidewalks in-house in in order to save some money. Is that correct? 

MARLO WARNER: Yes, that's correct an example is this winter? We will be designing four or five of these streets that we put in for grant. We do that in-house with the engineering techs, and the assistant engineer. And another note on the engineering design. We do work hand in hand with the requirements under ADA and we also work with the CDA Commission-- the Commission on disabilities access. All our projects are designed to meet the current standards and regulations.

MAYOR: Of the Americans with Disability Act?


MAYOR: Okay. 

MARLO WARNER: Yes. A big notice is the, I call them detectable panels you see on every corner it helps the impaired in seeing, so they can recognize those dimple boards, we call them when they come to an intersection. So every intersection has those every course walk has those installed. It's part of the projects.

MAYOR: Good, good, good. 

MARLO WARNER: So that's another small piece, but it's important to know that that hundred and fifty dollars a square yard is bringing everything up to today's standard. 

MAYOR: Thank you. Thank you for that. So there's another side to sidewalks in Greenfield and that is the homeowners' and the landlords' responsibilities for taking care of our sidewalks, as opposed to say what the city will do. Do you have a way of describing what generally the city will do versus what the homeowners are responsible for?

MARLO WARNER: So when it comes to City walks repair and replacement falls on the city, it's our sidewalks. Under under city ordinance, now when we talk about snow and ice in cleat in keeping the pathway of the sidewalk clear of any vegetation during the summer so on and so forth. All three of those items fall under the city ordinance that it's it's the landlord of the homeowners responsibility to keep snow and ice off the walkway. Keep the grass belt mode. So on and so forth. 

MAYOR: Oh, okay, so really removal of snow and ice and keeping the grass belt mowed are the homeowners' responsibilities. We'd like, is that what you're saying? 

MARLO WARNER: Yes. Yes. We have quite a few City properties that the DPW is responsible for in the winter. I believe we last look at that number about 28 miles of sidewalk we plow on the city side. So yes, the residents and the businesses are responsible under ordinance for in front of their places. 

MAYOR: Good good to know.

DPW has had some staffing issues over the last two years. We hope we're getting to a place where we can get everybody who do the all the positions in in the DPW where they need to be in terms of staffing. But some of this I am sure has fallen by the wayside a little bit because of staffing issues. Do you want to explain to the public how, how you have been impacted by that-- that particular thorny issue. And everybody's having a hard time filling positions, whether you're in the private sector or the public sector, so this is not, not singular to the city of Greenfield, but it has been a problem for the last year and a half two years, maybe.

MARLO WARNER: Yes, and we have been short in the high Highway Department quite frequently, which they work on the in-house sidewalk projects the smaller ones. So this summer has been exceptionally tough short on Staffing. We have become for the in-house. We take a work order. We take a complaint. That's that's the way that you get across us that you found a tripping hazard. 


MARLO WARNER: It's reported. It's put on a work order supervisor will go out and look at. It in the past, we've gone out and replaced sections of sidewalk, but we've been so short staffed that we want to make sure that we take care of that that tripping Hazard or whatever immediately with with a shim of blacktop, so it's not like a two inch tripper of a one slab a sidewalk sticking up over the rest. So I guess the easiest way to summon up is we have become more reactive this summer short staffed to make sure we take care of our liabilities that are put forth, than being proactive this summer with the short staffing. And yes, the Staffing is getting better.

MAYOR: Good. Well, I'm glad to hear that. Is there anything else about sidewalks that you would like to share with us? It seems like we've covered a lot of territory, but maybe you've thought of something as we've been talking, that we missed. What have we what else do we need to know about sidewalks except that we care about them a lot and we do what we can there's never enough money in that pie to go around and I always have to make hard decisions when it comes down to presenting the mayor's capital budget. But as often as I possibly can we are always going to have some measure of money in our capital budget for sidewalk repair and replacement and reconstruction. 

MARLO WARNER: I think the sidewalk infrastructure has has become so old so to speak like the rest of our infrastructure. It's a major, major investment to say put all the sidewalks back into let's say above a two two or a one. So we're trying to use what funding we have. And obviously hopefully we get grant money for the best of our ability. I look at sidewalks just as important as I do water, sewer, or any other infrastructure we have, so I guess we just plug along as we go here and do our best.

MAYOR: One foot in front of the other as they say. So, I think we have done what we can to explain sidewalks. I hope that people have a better understanding of the sidewalk program and it's been a pleasure having you here Director Warner. This will not be the last time you are at the Mayor's Roundtable, I can assure you. I think that this is what they call in the podcast slash radio any any of this type of thing a wrap. 

MARLO WARNER: Okay. Thank you for having me. 

MAYOR: Sure.

(Outro Music)