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Kent sidewalk work draws complaints from residents

KENT — Concerns about the ongoing installation and quality of the granite curbing in connection with the town’s Streetscape Project were aired and discussed at a special meeting of the Board of Selectmen on Monday, Aug.  22.

Streetscape committee chairman Mike Gawel brought his concerns to the selectmen, following up on emails in which he detailed his observations about the installation of curbing, particularly along the Bridge Street segment of the project.

Mike Doherty, principal landscape architect for SLR Consulting of Cheshire, was present at the meeting to respond to Gawel’s concerns. Mather Construction of Bloomfield is the contractor.

After the concerns were detailed, the selectmen agreed to walk the site with Gawel to have him point out the areas of his concern in connection with the work.

Among Gawel’s concerns are whether the backfilled gravel stones are being compacted properly, indicating that he has seen air pockets within the gravel laid under the curbing stones, what he termed “voids.” He also noted that the granite curbing is of varying thicknesses creating inconsistencies at the joints where slabs meet. He felt there was sloppy application of concrete at the joints, where he felt that the granite should be seated in concrete.

Gawel also raised the question of insufficient inspection of the ongoing work.

Doherty indicated that the work had proceeded more quickly than originally anticipated and he acknowledged that an inspector had not been present in the early phases. He indicated that the plans had called for concrete on the front and back of the curbing slabs.

Local stone mason Justin Money shared a number of Gawel’s concerns, indicating that residents may not have a grasp on construction or design. He agreed that the gravel stones must be compacted properly. He measured that gravel is being laid to a depth of 12 inches, but only the top layer appears to be compacted.

Estimating the granite slabs to be of “poor quality,” Money described the granite as uneven, creating uneven joints between slabs as well as unevenness where it meets the new sidewalk.

Gawel added his concern that unevenness brings the hazard of cracking. Where the crews are sawing the edges to try to make them even, Gawel cautioned that the resulting sawn edge will be slippery underfoot, a safety hazard.

The Streetscape Project is funded by a $500,000 grant from the state Department of Transportation’s Community Connectivity Grant program. Phase One will replace the sidewalks on North Main Street and on Bridge Street as far as the bridge.

A major issue centered on the change in granite supplier from a New England company who could not meet the order due to recent supply shortages. A North Carolina company could fill the order, but the granite could not be New England gray in color.

“It was not done in haste,” First Selectman Jean Speck interjected. “There was a problem with securing materials.”

“But no one on the Streetscape Committee was aware of the changes,” Gawel said, complaining that the committee was not consulted.

The execution of curves in the curbing was an additional concern of Money and Gawel, who indicated that small granite pieces are creating a polygonal curb, rather than an evenly curved arc. Doherty agreed that if pieces are found, he will see that the pieces are replaced with a smooth radial curve.

Selectman Glenn Sanchez concluded that all constituents should be communicating. “There is miscommunication somewhere,” he said.

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