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You get what you (don’t) pay for

This week, the long-troubled bridge on Holabird Avenue continued to be the symbol of the town’s decaying infrastructure.

The bridge was closed to traffic on Sunday, Feb. 23, due to numerous deep potholes and rebar sticking out of some of them.

According to a Department of Transportation study, more than 3,000 vehicles travel over the bridge every day.

A project to repair the bridge is scheduled to start in 2015. While that may be something residents can look forward to next year, it is of little consolation to commuters who now have to find detours around the bridge.

These commuters include students and employees at Northwestern Connecticut Community College, business owners and customers of the Whiting Mills building and the Winsted Fire Department, which has a fire station on Whiting Street.

This could have been avoided many years ago if the town had stepped up to the plate financially with a plan to fix the bridge. Instead, for years the bridge was allowed to decay, along with many roads throughout town.

In January 2013, former Department of Public Works Chairman James Rotondo presented an infrastructure and capital equipment needs report to the Board of Selectmen. In his report, he cited several roads in need of repair, including Holabird Avenue, Fruit Street, Perkins Street, Mountain View Terrace and Newfield Road.

“These roads have been neglected to the point where we have got to do major reconstruction to take these roads back,” Rotondo said at the meeting. “There is an astronomical cost for failing to do preventative maintenance.”

Rotondo said there has been a lack of investment in road improvements and maintenance since at least fiscal year 2000-01.

The town’s lack of investment in infrastructure maintenance and improvements does not stop at roads. At the same meeting, Rotondo said the majority of the town’s snow plow trucks are over 11 years old. It would not be a big surprise if other town equipment is on the verge of breaking down due to age and a lack of maintenance over the years.

At a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting in January, Town Manager Dale Martin presented a list of potential capital improvement projects proposed by town department leaders.The proposed expenditures, which total an estimated $1,009,316, was reviewed and approved by the commission. The proposed projects will now go on to the Board of Selectmen for review during the fiscal 2014-15 budget-making process.

Included in the proposed expenditures: $175,000 for road maintenance, including mill and overlay work, $50,000 for road improvements, including the repair of various chronic drainage and safety issues, $96,250 for a new plow truck and $10,000 for paving the Senior Center’s parking lot.

Other proposed expenditures include $35,000 to refurbish the police station, $15,000 to replace a Hurst hydraulic rescue tool for the fire department and $7,000 to replace the roof on the fire department’s station on Prospect Street.

While these proposed expenditures were approved by the commission, many other proposals by various departments were not. These included $60,000 for protective clothing replacement for the fire department, $465,450 to replace the boiler at Pearson School and $486,000 for the restoration of Soldiers’ Monument.

How long do we have to wait until the town steps up to the plate to take care of its infrastructure?

Do we have to wait until a road crumbles to the point where it gets closed for a long period of time?

Do we have to wait until someone gets hurt on a road?

Do we have to wait until a town employee gets hurt while working on the job?

Or do we have to wait until Soldiers’ Monument, with its continuing structure problems, crumbles?

This is not necessarily a call to increase property taxes. This is a call for town officials to spend money in the town’s budget wisely in order to maintain and improve the town’s infrastructure instead of ignoring it or making excuses.