(Part I can be found here. )
Chuck Camera runs a pretty tight ship called “The Street Department.” As Captain, he documents the details in case he ever needs to refer back. At the very beginning of our interview/meeting, he pulled out his 2008 calendar. Notes about who he called back, who he talked to: all documented. As he flipped up March, he slid his finger across weeks at a time, all the days of which had one word written in the box: Snow.
“I track, so we know. And in between these days, we’re trying to fill holes.” They tried to crackseal East Erie early in the year, but it was just too cold. The crackseal comes in blocks. And at 30 degrees outside, it takes almost 3 hours to melt down a block of this material, and almost half the day is gone. One year, they had two shifts, the first started at midnight, and when the day crew came in, the machine was already hot. This winter coming, one guy will come in at 5am and get the machine fired up, so that it’s hot by the time the rest of the crew comes in.
Chuck’s running the department with 18 guys. If someone’s out sick, and someone else is on vacation, the department runs with even more limitations on what tasks they can perform. If he has guys street sweep, there’s 5 guys. Three men are out in the sweepers, and two men drive dump trucks to empty the sweepers, and they rotate between the three.
The City has been cracking down on overgrown lawns. They send out ‘Notices to Abate.’ So, if a lawn needs mowed, Street Department guys handle the task. The City sent out 994 notices, and the Street Dept mowed almost half of those. But guess what? They still have to check the other half to see if they need mowed! Property owners get billed $300 if the City mows their lawn. In order to insure that they get their money, Chuck sends an ordinance to Council every two weeks, which, in turn, gets sent to the County and the owner is getting billed. If not, properties were getting transferred pretty quickly and they couldn’t catch the offending owner.
The construction season in Lorain runs from June through October, instead of April through November due to sweeping, lawns, etc. The former Paint Department is part of the Street Dept now, with two full-time and two seasonal employees striping streets. Contrary to what some folks may think, striping is also part of the maintenance of the streets. Center lines, crosswalks, School zones, everything.
Oberlin Avenue was fixed up by way of a deal with Falbo Construction, where a Falbo crew cut up and removed the sections, while a Street crew was right behind, filling in with fresh concrete. The plan was to do from Meister to Cooper Foster, but lack of funds limited the project to Tower Blvd. A machine that would help the City tremendously runs $300,000+, too steep for their budget right now, and would grind the pavement and remove it and keep moving. The current procedure entails a grinder running in front of a small Bobcat. “We grind out the hole, make it square, we tack it, we patch it, we roll it, and we move on. When we get the street done, we come in with the crackseal, and we seal around all cracks, we seal around all the joints, and we do extend the life” (of the street). “An example of that is 30th St., over by Slovak (Lanes). We did that in 1997. We got an extra 11 years out of that. We do that on certain streets and we do save some life. We do extend it. But you get to a point where, now it’s time to do something else. You can only extend it so long.”
One of the options he is exploring is having someone come in with a machine that will plane the streets. The vehicle is set to a certain depth and it grinds the high spots down, and the Street Dept will follow behind with a fresh layer of asphalt. Bad spots similar to areas of 21st St. and the Baumhart Road underpass would be repaired. This, coupled with partnerships with companies like Falbo on Oberlin Avenue, would help extend the life of many streets, but he can’t do it because the money’s not there.
“Slurry seals…You’ve got to start protecting your newer streets. Instead of cracksealing every little crack, it slurry seals the whole pavement. Sort of what you do to a whole parking lot. You can’t do that to the streets because then they’re too slippery. You put a down a sand base or fine aggregate…seals it, provides traction so you won’t slip or slide. We’ve got to come up with a slurry seal program. (Tony’s) plan calls for a $5 million catch-up program, which we’ll go through some of that in a minute. But it’ll get some things done, which is why we’ll have to do some of the combinations. Which is also in conjunction with the 1%, he’s looking at doing some of these other programs to save some of our streets, and maybe get us caught up in another manner. Because once you get that $5 million catch-up plan, there’s some money left over, before he has to roll that over and pay that off. But we’re looking at that money to put into the different things that we’re talking about – slurry seal, put a crackseal program out…he wants to put down about $125,000, which we figure will get us about 30 miles, it’ll make me do 20 miles. There’s like 579 lean miles in the City of Lorain. That will put us on a 10-year cycle to go around and crackseal, which is not a bad cycle. Considering that some are beyond cracksealing right now. But once you get them caught up, put’em on a crackseal program. I think with all that, we can get ourselves caught up. If we do it correctly.
“…we have to do maintenance. Street sweeping is maintenance. Really, we should do more. The grit and everything wears (on) the roads.” Pointing to a calendar on the wall of his office, “You see on Sunday right now?” It reads ‘Sweeping.’ “We have a schedule that we keep over there, underneath that. That’s all the roads we sweep in a month. Every (Monday) morning, at 3am, 3 sweepers go out and they hit” the roads scheduled for that Monday, until 7am. “Then they come in, park’em and go do their regular job.”