MOUNT JACKSON – Residents and town leaders are not impressed with a recent Virginia Department of Transportation street paving project that left sidewalks stained and driveways ruined, prompting the town to file an official complaint with the state agency.
During Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, Marilyn Peck, a town resident, stood up to read a letter for a friend who could not attend the meeting. The letter laid out multiple complaints residents had with street paving and how VDOT was unresponsive to concerns.
The slurry used in the project was kicked up onto sidewalks, the letter stated, leaving tar behind that contractors said they would be back to clean up.
Peck said the “cleaning up” consisted of a man with a leaf blower. She took to sweeping the sidewalk herself and saw others on their hands and knees scraping the sidewalks in front of their homes.
When Suzanne Porter, the author of the letter Peck read, went to VDOT complaining the contractors left a mess behind and asked why neighboring towns’ roads looked so much better, officials told her that neighboring towns received an allotment of funds that allowed them to use different contractors.
Kevin Fauber, the town manager, said towns such as Woodstock and Strasburg were able to select their contractors rather than relying on VDOT bidding out the project.
Whitney Miller, a council member, said she speculated that VDOT gave the project to the lowest bidder, causing the project to be done on a budget and not necessarily done well.
“As a town, there’s not much we can do about that,” Miller said. “VDOT can file a formal complaint against a vendor registered with the state. So we could request that VDOT do that.”
If VDOT did submit a complaint, Miller said, that contractor would have to include that fact when it bid on future projects.
Peck said she hasn’t had any luck lodging her complaints with VDOT officials. Local contacts haven’t gotten back to her, she said, and she wasn’t sure who to go to next.
Councilman Dennis Andrick explained that residents had to go to the Staunton office first and then to Richmond if they don’t get an appropriate response.
Vice Mayor Rod Shepherd said he has heard multiple complaints about the streets around town. He asked his fellow council members to raise their hand if they had heard complaints from their constituents, prompting hands into the air around the table and comments from the crowd.
Rather than having individuals go to VDOT, Shepherd said, he thought it was the council members’ responsibility to facilitate communication with VDOT about the poor quality of the project.
“I would suggest we instruct our staff to write a letter to VDOT and you decide which one of the higher-ups get it,” Shepherd said. “To sit here and expect our constituents to contact VDOT and complain, that might be our job to do that as well.”