Forest Avenue in line for much needed repairs

Forest Avenue in line for much needed repairs

CUMBERLAND - The town is making plans to borrow $400,000 from a special new state fund to reconstruct what's said to be the neediest street in town - Forest Avenue in Valley Falls.

The well traveled street runs about 1,000 feet between Chambers Street and Broad Street, behind B.F. Norton School.

Public Works Director Alan Brodd called it "the worst remaining street in town."

The pavement is broken, patched over, and generally an eyesore while rotting old tree stumps line the edge where roots long ago buckled the sidewalks.

Tree stumps are the remains of what may have been a Public Works Administration project of the 1930s when maples and elms were planted in the area.

Work there would continue the focus on Valley Falls where the McKee Administration is targeting town, state and federal funds in an effort to revive the old mill village at the southern tip of the town.

Brodd says the trees had gradually become overgrown and diseased, suffering from the inability of moisture to reach the tangled roots beneath the asphalt surface.

The loan would come from the new Municipal Road and Bridge Revolving Fund administered by the Rhode Island Clean Water Finance Agency. The General Assembly started off the fund with $7 million this year and now the Rhode Island Department of Transportation will prioritize the municipal submissions. Cumberland's request was one of the early ones submitted.

The hiccup here is that the estimated cost is twice the amount permitted by town charter without a voter referendum.

To get around that restriction, the borrowing would be split into two fiscal years, Finance Director Brian Silvia told the Town Council.

State approval isn't a sure thing and the go-ahead to "obtain a loan . . . not to exceed $200,000" was granted without the concurrence of Councilors Scott Schmitt and Art Lambi, who said they couldn't endorse the borrowing without knowing the impact on taxpayers.

Interest on the loan is pegged at 2 percent below prime, or about 2 percent, but the term of the loan was uncertain, Silvia told the council.

Silvia said he would return to councilors with more details if the town wins the cash.

Lambi also commented, "We don't have enough information. Are there other streets in town of equal need?"

Looking at a Google map during the meeting last week, he counted 27 cars haphazardly parked along both sides of the street, many up on the sidewalk.

"If we're just paving it over to make more parking spaces," he said, "that's not a good thing."

Public Works Director Alan Brodd later compared the re-do to the work on Blackstone Street about a decade ago when brand-new pavement and granite-edged sidewalks were installed.

Brodd said that new granite curbing will make sidewalk parking impossible. "Once it's built with 6-inch-high curbing, there shouldn't be parking like that," he told The Breeze.

He also said it's the last street that's been identified by town officials for this kind of side-to-side re-do.

A former list was completed and a new one hasn't been developed, he said.