By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer
The unsung stalwarts of the City of Sharon are now on the radar of city officials.
Members of the city’s public works department, which include five full-time and three part-time employees, and its equipment are becoming the subject of conversations between city councilmen and city manager Scott Andrejchak.
They are being focused on at the urging of councilman Ed Palanski, who has lobbied for creation of a public works improvement plan that he, his colleague Bill James and city mechanic Ron Maurice are working to put in place.
“We’re at a stage where we have to look at how to fund and staff a full-service street department,” Andrejchak said.
It’s a segment of the city’s services that accounts for about $500,000, but it’s been long neglected, officials say.
“People think of safety first,” Palanski said, referring to the police and fire departments.
“The stepchild is often the street department,” he said. “I think that’s been the case with the city and I think we’re at the point where we really need to come up with a plan to bring the department up to (snuff).”
The department works with four dump trucks, the newest of which is 10 years old. Two of them are approaching their 20th year in service, more than double their useful life.
“The salt just eats them away,” Maurice said, adding he’s been lucky to be able to keep them running to keep the streets salted and plowed.
“Eventually, we’re not going to be able to fix the trucks,” Maurice said.
In a perfect world, adding two new trucks to the fleet would top his wish list, he said. That would cost the city about $250,000.
It’s cash the city doesn’t readily have on hand, but funds could be budgeted to phase in improvements to the fleet, Palanski said.
“Let’s own it, let’s start to plan for it and let’s start to bring it up to speed,” Palanski said.
There’s no timeframe set for drafting the plan, but all on city council, Andrejchak and Maurice agree something needs to be done.
“It’s nothing that money won’t solve,” Andrejchak said. “I think the challenge is to prioritize the needs.
The city has 56 miles of roads to maintain, not counting alleys, Maurice said.
“It’s been ignored long enough,” Palanski said of the department.