The Massachusetts Municipal Association is a wonderful source of information on both what other towns are doing and what are the best practices. This summer’s issue of the MMA’s Municipal Advocate ran an article by an engineer from Faye, Spofford & Thorndike, on best practices for maintaining road surfaces, and stating that having a “pavement management plan” for the roads ensures, long term, both the best planning and the cheapest road costs. See the article via the link below for all the details.
Basically a pavement management plan involves
- doing an initial survey to get the data on all your road surfaces conditions,
- rating all road surfaces.
- projecting expected repair cost, and
- using that data to make policy decisions about annual needs/repairs, and spending levels.
Since we do not have a pavement management plan, I will be asking that we implement one. This is the sort of discipline that we need to undertake if we are to get a good understanding of what we should be doing each year. Without that catalog of data of the existing conditions, our annual road maintenance decisions are at best, educated guesses.
The Water and Sewer Commission recently implemented a sophisticated business planning model developed for them by board member Willis Peligian, that analyzes the data and based upon the variables. It is an impressive business planning tool that accounts for all the variables, and can then aid the W&S Department in its planning by showing expected outcomes of different choices. The model clearly showed the W&S Department (and all of us who saw it demonstrated) that a 25% rate hike was needed this year to maintain the required reserves. Interestingly, the recent Globe article had our water rates listed as second lowest out of about the 15-20 towns in their article.
Our road maintenance needs a similar disciplined approach to plan future work, both to properly prioritize that work, but more importantly, to save the town money. It is clear from the experts that incremental spending on road maintenance decreases road repair costs long term, and we need to be planning for the long term.