In-house culvert work saving Northfield $200K

  • The Northfield Highway Department has been replacing a culvert on South Mountain Road. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Northfield Highway Department has been replacing a culvert on South Mountain Road. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/15/2022 4:05:19 PM

NORTHFIELD — Thanks to the use of town employees rather than an outside contractor, the culvert replacement project in the works on South Mountain Road is expected to cost $200,000 less.

“Saving this money will allow us to do other projects in town,” Highway Superintendent Tom Walker said.

The project replaces a deteriorating culvert with a new concrete box culvert that is 32 feet long and 10 feet wide. Work has shut down the road for about a month so far, and pavement and railing installation will be completed in about three additional weeks.

“We are hoping to finish the entire project before school buses start driving,” he said.

The replaced culvert, which had begun to collapse, was originally constructed in the 1970s, according to Walker. Normally, South Mountain Road is 20 feet wide, but this section of the roadway had eroded to 17 feet wide. The Highway Department cordoned off the edge of the road for several years before this construction project began.

“If a car got near the edge, it is on an unstable point that could collapse,” Walker said.

In 2018, a new culvert design was planned for the location. Construction was supposed to be completed last year, Walker said, but a flood on July 18, 2021 washed out several roads in Northfield. The construction project was then delayed one year.

Walker expects this project will cost $175,000 to $200,000. Typically, new culvert projects cost around $300,000 to $500,000, according to Walker. He pointed to a similar project constructed by Northeast Utilities this year that cost roughly $500,000.

When working in-house, it allows the Highway Department to pay the employees their salaries that are already part of the town budget, Walker explained. Normally a project goes out to bid, and then the town pays prevailing wages to contracted companies. Working in-house has no extra labor costs.

The project also uses Chapter 90 funds from the state. Unused money can support other road maintenance projects in town.

“Luckily we are able to do the project because I have been in construction my whole life, and we have the equipment,” he said, adding that many towns do not have the staff or the equipment to take on projects like this. The Northfield Highway Department employs four workers, and has a building maintenance employee also assisting with the culvert project.

Walker said there was a small learning curve with some employees who were new to construction, but they were able to complete the entire culvert replacement project with the Highway Department’s employees. Aside from the extreme summer heat, Walker said the construction went smoothly.

“The guys prefer this work to the typical lawn mowing and pothole patching,” Walker noted.

Reach Bella Levavi
or 413-930-4579.


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