National Grid will be digging up a portion of Hingham's Main Street this winter to replace a 99-year-old gas main only a year after the road was repaved -- a situation town officials say they are working to avoid in the future.
At Tuesday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting, National Grid spokesman Dennis Regan detailed how the 375 feet of gas main from Elm Street to Leavitt Street and from Leavitt Street to Playground Road needed replacement, mainly due to its age and the continual problems with the pipe.
The main has had four leaks since the road was repaved a year ago, further pointing to the fact that something needs to be done.
But Hingham officials were disturbed about that the work comes so soon after the repaving, which took place in June 2010 as part of the town's Five Year Road Replacement Program.
According to the DPW’s assistant town engineer, Harry Sylvester, the town attempted circumvent this problem by contacting National Grid about the pipe when the road was dug up last spring. However, differences between the two parties prevented the gas company from moving forward.
As a consequence, “in light of fact that we have repaved that road and resurfaced it, the gas company will resurface and repave the road once this is complete,” Sylvester said.
The work will be completed this winter so as not to interfere with Forth of July festivities. Weather permitting, the work will take four to six weeks.
“If all goes well, we can get this done early in the construction season and have it in tip top shape by Fourth of July,” Sylvester said.
Regardless of the fix and the mitigations to the town, which are intended to restore the road to its current condition, Selectman Bruce Rabuffo remained displeased that this work wasn’t done previously.
“We have a five-year road plan…and I hope we can work harder to bring them in sync,” Rabuffo said. “We spent money a year ago and now it will be respent by someone else, which will up gas rates. It’s a lack of coordination and planning that’s of concern.”
Rabuffo said it’s a discussion he has had before, and that it isn’t fair to the taxpayer, who will end up paying the cost twice in one way or another.
According to Sylvester, the town did everything it could to encourage National Grid to participate when the road was open, “but the gas company chose not to heed our letters and disregarded our warnings,” he said. “They have supposedly valid reasons. Now they are paying the price.”
It’s been the final tipping point for the partnership. Since the disagreement about Main Street, they have been working together to ensure that roads and gas mains are repaired concurrently.
Cottage Street, Ship Street, Governor Andrew Road, Governor Long Road, Merrill Street, and Parker Drive are just some of the other streets that have received National Grid attention while the town had the road open, Sylvester said.
The DPW is also working with the gas company to ensure that all mains under to-be-replaced roads are addressed.
According to Sylvester, the town has been researching the age of the main, the number of leaks it has had, the repaving schedule for the road, and even sometimes hiring a public consultant to survey the leak history.
All of this information is provided to National Grid to ensure the company works with the town in main replacements.
“We’re doing our due diligence. And the gas company at this point in time seems to be cooperating,” Sylvester said.
Despite Rabuffo’s displeasure about Main Street, the other selectmen commended National Grid for being cooperative overall.
“The gas company has made a real effort to work with this community,” Selectmen Chairman John Riley said. “I understand where [Rabuffo is] coming from, and I don’t disagree, but I think the gas company has made an effort, has kept people in the loop…so if we can get his last part completed, things will go much more smoothly.”
One resident came out to ask questions about the construction, which Regan promised wouldn’t be too cumbersome.
Residents along the constructed area will be notified before work begins in front of their house. The pipe will be laid down in three-day increments to deal with the weather.
Additionally, all lines running to the houses will be checked to ensure no additional leakage is taking place.
“It should be that much of a disruption,” Regan said.