By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — The North Tonawanda City Council will consider the purchase of new technology that could save thousands of dollars in man hours and material and double the number of sidewalks the city fixes each year.
Brad Rowles, supervisor of the department of public works, said the city annually contends with the shape of its sidewalks, often affected by the gnarled roots of the city’s older stock of trees, deteriorating sewer lines and the settling of earth in yards and along city streets. A $60,000 purchase could change the way Rowles’ department addresses those issues.
New machinery would allow city workers to drill holes in the sidewalk blocks then lift them up from below, rather than replacing them entirely.
While replacing the old blocks of sidewalk costs about $80 per section, according to Rowles, lifting the sidewalks currently in place would eliminate most of that amount, outside of labor, and would also keep in place better quality blocks because newer concrete is less durable than than those installed decades ago.
“If you do 10 a day you would pay for this in no time,” Rowles said, adding the city normally repairs 750 sidewalk sections each year.
The process was tested along Webster Street earlier this year through a private contractor and the initiative appears to have the backing of the council. Funding for the venture would be taken from the public workers budget.
Mayor Rob Ortt said that while the city gets sidewalk complaints all year from residents, many of those issues are addressed by the public works department during “a two-week blitz.”
“It’s going to cut costs,” Ortt said. “The cost of the equipment will be taken out of previously budgeted funds.”
Rowles told the council this week that rather than spending two weeks doing replacements, the process could occur during most of the year and double the number of sidewalks the city fixes. He also said that the practice would be a novelty among local municipalities.
Council President Rich Andres asked Rowles whether the city would be following a path established by other municipalities, to which Rowles responded, “I think we’ll be the first, this is a very new process.”
The equipment required to begin the work, including a skid steer, a pump to push up the concrete blocks, a drill and a water tank, will take three months to order and obtain, Rowles added, while training for the process should also be minimal.
“This will be on-the-job training, Rowles said. “We’re going to take baby steps.”Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.