From Town Hall: The winter of our discontent

John Steinbeck’s classic novel set in a fictional eastern Long Island seaport was less about winter weather and more about changing morality and social issues. However, in Wilton this year, the story has been less about town issues and almost entirely about the long, bitter winter weather that has regularly been pounding us!

As reported earlier, the town exhausted its storm budget weeks ago and our sand and salt materials shed is so empty that there’s an echo in the facility. We started out with a full shed sand/salt inventory of over 8,000 cubic yards of materials, benefiting from two previous light winters. However, repetitive storm conditions required DPW crews to be called out over 15 times to date to treat and plow community roads to assure public safety.

The state has also had a similar work load and due to a regional shortage of sodium chloride (salt) materials, had to declare a state of emergency! For a while we were in better shape than Connecticut’s Department of Transportation, as we altered the mix of salt and sand to make the salt last a little longer. For information, Wilton has over 400 tons of salt on back order and hopefully, we will receive it soon and not in May, when it is no longer needed.

This year’s frequent snowstorms combined with very cold weather also created safety problems due to snow-covered and icy sidewalks! While most property owners and retail stores cleared their sidewalks after each storm, as required by the town’s ordinance, some property owners have not complied. This creates public safety concerns and potential liability issues, if, for example, a citizen accidentally fell on an uncleared sidewalk and was injured! Therefore, for everyone’s benefit, we ask every property owner to please cooperate with the town by clearing sidewalks promptly after a storm when it is easiest to do so.

The state has also been slow to clear sidewalks adjacent to state property. As a result, there were a few instances where citizens were walking in the roads, which created a hazardous situation. To alleviate this safety issue, the town has been clearing these sidewalks as best we can, but we have also advised state officials of the problem, requesting assistance and a solution to this issue.

As I am sure everyone has noticed, the horrific weather has also produced “perfect storm” conditions to create potholes. Periods of freezing weather mixed with warm periods escalates the expansion and contraction of asphalt roadways, which has yielded a bumper crop of potholes. Be assured the Department of Public Works is aware of the problem. The potholes on River Road have been a challenge, with crews filling holes regularly to provide temporary improvement to road surfaces. Hot melt asphalt repairs will be completed when warmer, drier weather is upon us and the asphalt plant reopens.

Also on River Road, when Yankee Gas expands gas distribution through Wilton Center in July/August of this year, an excavated trench will be required for the installation of a main gas line. The road will then be repaired, but final paving will not take place until 2015 to allow the settlement of materials, but also to provide time for lateral gas line connections (trenches) to be made to buildings converting to natural gas fuel. Consequently, town officials respectfully ask for everyone’s patience and understanding during this transitional time period.

We were all fearful the snowstorm expected on Monday would be the final icing on this winter cake! In anticipation, schoolchildren cheered for another possible no school storm day, while moms and school administrators groaned, as makeup days inched past mid-June. Thank goodness the storm never materialized! It was the best weather news of the season.

Local meteorological experts indicate about four more weeks of winter remain for our area, so hang on, spring is coming! The flowers for the lamppost baskets have been ordered and the garden club is making its usual plans to beautify Wilton Center and the Veterans Memorial Green. As soon as the snow finally melts, street cleaning will begin and the traditional Wilton Townwide Community Clean-up Day is now scheduled for Saturday, April 5. Cleaning up the town this year will require the usual help from Wilton citizens. You can make a difference by volunteering a few hours picking up litter and storm refuse in your neighborhoods so that Wilton will once again sparkle.

Like everyone else in Wilton, I am ready for spring and warmer weather, which will soothe recollections of eye-popping fuel and plowing bills, hopefully making the discontent of this winter a fading memory.