Rockingham to repave aging Public Works facility

By: By Gavin Stone -

ROCKINGHAM — The city council on Tuesday approved a bid to repave a large part of the Rockingham Public Works Facility which City Manager Monty Crump said is in “very bad shape.”

The facility’s parking areas and general-use driveways, which are used by every city-owned vehicle from fire trucks to garbage trucks for refueling and repairs, hasn’t been repaired since 1977 — when it was first built. The initial asphalt was put on top of the existing ground without using a base, which is typically used to make a roadway more durable, according to Street Superintendent Roger Coan.

Coan said that pavement with a base is doing a “good job” if it lasts 20 years. Despite not having a base and being subjected to high-volume traffic — which includes some of the heaviest vehicles on the road — for twice as long as he would normally expect for repairs, Coan said the facility has held up “remarkably well.”

“After 40 years it starts to show up,” Coan said.

The pavement is peppered with potholes and significant networks of cracks, with several large patches of uneven dirt that collect water when it rains. Coan said he’s heard complaints about it since he began working for Rockingham Public Works 13 years ago.

Crump said at the council meeting that this has been a long-standing problem but that the city had other “more critical needs” to address.

“We’ve been meaning to do this for years,” Crump said. “It’s been one of those things that we’ve put off and we’ve put off.”

Public Works has already begun construction on a new concrete base at the entrance to its repair shop. This and other smaller improvements — such as repaving roughly the first 15 yards of pavement at the entrance to the facility, the employee parking lot, the sidewalk in front of the main office building, and adding concrete bases at the entrances of the repair shops — were done in-house to save money and did not require the city’s approval.

The repairs to the entrance of the facility were done 10 years ago, and the employee parking lot was repaired six years ago, according to Coan. The sidewalk was completed recently, while the concrete bases are ongoing.

Any damages sustained to the city’s vehicles by repeatedly driving over the damaged pavement would be fixed at the Public Works facility, according to Coan. He said he did not have an estimate on how much the city has spent on repairs to fix damages which could be attributed to consistently driving through the facility, but said it was “rough” on fire trucks.

Fire Chief Harold Isler said he wasn’t aware of any damage to the city’s fire trucks, but said that drivers do have to dodge pot holes one their way to get fuel. He also said that the trucks get dirty driving through the facility when it rains.

Isler called the news of the repairs “outstanding” and is looking forward to a “smoother ride.”

Construction is expected to begin Nov. 1 and will likely be completed in less than 120 days, according to Coan. The existing pavement will be removed in phases so that city vehicles can continue to access the services the facility provides.

“(Repaving the Public Works facility) is going to be a big help to city employees,” said Councilman Bennett Deane. “Most of them are in and out of that area and it’s going to make their work place a better working environment.”

The bid was awarded to Barnhill Contracting Company who estimated the cost of completing the project at $332,924.25 — 15 percent less than the $390,000 the city had budgeted.

Some exceptions had to be made to award the bid, according to Crump. He said that when the city opened bids for the project he was not aware that the legislature had raised the threshold for formal construction bids from $300,000 to $500,000, and the only way it could be lowered was if special circumstances were met.

The new law states that municipalities must get at least three bids for a project, and if it doesn’t then it must seek a new round of bids and put out advertisements. This project only received two bids: Barnhill and Hudson Paving.

The city went ahead with awarding the bid to Barnhill on the grounds that:

• these two contractors are the main two that do this type of work in the area;

• the bid market is “highly speculative” meaning that many projects are out and costs for materials are high; and

• because Barnhill was able to save the city nearly $60,000 on the project.

By Gavin Stone