Works head oversees roads, waste

Friday, February 24, 2012


Staff Writer

There are six divisions under the umbrella of Bedford’s Department of Public Works, and there’s no better man to hold that umbrella than Jim Stanford. As director of Public Works, he oversees the administrative, highway, solid waste, field maintenance, wastewater and building maintenance divisions.

In addition to maintaining a good portion of Bedford’s physical infrastructure, the Department of Public Works provides solid waste disposal, sewer service, snow and ice removal and treatment, and assistance for town events. It also oversees the construction of new subdivisions.

Stanford recently took the time to answer our questions about unusual items people have disposed of at the transfer station, how many miles of roads there are in Bedford and how many times the plows have been out during this rather unseasonable winter.

Here’s part of the conversation:

Q: How did you become head of the Department of Public Works?

A: Bedford hired me as the director about 10 years ago after I spent 13 years as an engineer with a few other municipalities.

Q: What kind of skills and employment background are useful to have in this position?

A: Bedford requires the director to be a licensed professional engineer. My degree is in civil engineering, and much of the work involves review of construction plans and documents.

Q: How do people respond when they find out what your job is? Do they make any jokes, ask when their road is going to be paved, etc.?

A: Most of the jokes and questions come from the town’s fire chief, Scott Wiggin. He always wanted to be an engineer but didn’t get around to it. There’s not a paved road in town that he didn’t drive his tractor on when it was just an old gravel cart path, so he always wants to know which roads will be worked on.

Q: How many miles of roads are there in town?

A: We have about 195 miles of roadways that the town maintains.

Q: Is there a particular plan for paving the roads?

A: The main roads have the higher priority, due to the traffic volume and location of major drainage facilities. We use a pavement management system for long-range planning of improvements, and each year we evaluate road conditions and prioritize the program based on funding availability. We use a number of different maintenance methods, including pavement overlays and rehabilitation, in order to extend road life. The goal is to achieve 20 years out of a road before it needs another major treatment.

Q: Which road in Bedford is the most difficult to maintain?

A: All roads have their challenges, due to varying road widths and elevation differences. It is not uncommon to have one area of town be raining while the other side of town is experiencing snow or sleet because of the higher elevations.

Q: Have you seen an increase in storm damage over the last few years due to flooding, downed trees, etc.?

A: There are obviously exceptions, such as last year’s early October snowstorm that took down many oak hardwood trees and power lines, but for the most part, the storms aren’t any more frequent or intense than in previous years. It’s that more areas are now developed; therefore, there is more opportunity for damage to occur.

Q: How many times do you usually have to take out the plows each winter? How many times have you had to take them out this winter?

A: The Public Works budget is based on an average of 25 winter storm events in a calendar year. While we have not yet experienced heavy snow accumulations that we see in a typical year, we’ve had about 10 ice or freezing rain events since Jan. 1. These events usually occur in the early morning hours, just before the morning commute, when temperatures drop and the moisture on the pavement freezes. In many cases, these types of events are more costly because of the amount of material (sand or salt) that is used.

Q: Are there any unusual items people have tried to dispose of at the transfer station?

A: I can’t think of anything unusual, but there have been times that residents have inadvertently disposed of valuables. A few years back, a new resident had disposed of what he thought were moving boxes filled with junk. He then realized a day later that the boxes contained all of his family documents. The resident, along with help from the town’s disposal contractor, spent the better part of a day trying to retrieve the boxes from piles of solid waste at their facility but were unsuccessful.

Q: What percentage of town waste is recycled?

A: About 13 percent. The town collected about 7,800 tons of ordinary municipal solid waste and about another 1,200 tons of commingled recyclables in 2011. Coincidently, a group of elementary students at the Riddle Brook School are working on a Destination Imagination project to increase town recycling participation by the residents. They are designing a sign as part of an educational campaign that will be placed at the transfer station to encourage more recycling.

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