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Repaving work resumes, after a city lesson

Construction resumed yesterday on Boston roads after utility companies and others who routinely cut through the asphalt were called into City Hall and given a refresher course on patching holes in sidewalks and streets.

The city lifted its construction moratorium after warning about 60 company representatives, and also the heads of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority and the Boston Water and Sewer Commission, that they are failing to properly refill the holes they open during their work , leaving city streets bumpy and uneven.

``We told them that across the city the work is starting to be substandard," said Michael Galvin, the city's chief of basic services, who ran Monday's meeting. ``We said, `We want to bring it up. We will bring it up. We're going to monitor you and stop the job,' " he said.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino halted all construction involving cutting into city roadways on Thursday after he drove over a poorly patched stretch of Dorchester Avenue. ``I'm not going to stand for it," he said at the time.

At the meeting, the companies were shown a series of photos, taken over the weekend, of shoddy repairs on roads and sidewalks .

``There were poorly reconstructed sidewalks, plates that had shifted, subpar asphalt jobs, sinkholes," Galvin said. ``They were in Brighton, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, West Roxbury -- across the spectrum.

``The pictures said it all," he added. ``It wasn't like that a few years ago."

Galvin said the city will step up enforcement, assigning additional inspectors to monitor work and halt jobs that don't meet city standards, which were shown to company representatives attending the Monday meeting. The standards are contained in the city's new $25 manual, titled ``Rules and Specifications for Excavation Activity Within the City of Boston," which sets forth detailed regulations for cutting streets and patching holes.

City officials also will meet individually with representatives of NStar and other large utilities to review their concerns, Galvin said.

A trade group representing contractors said the city shared some responsibility for pitted roadways. While anyone cutting into the street is obligated to make temporary patches under city rules, they said, the city is supposed to apply the permit fees paid by contractors digging up roads to make permanent pavement repairs.

``There is money that goes into a fund and is supposed to go toward the permanent fix," said John Pourbaix of Construction Industries of Massachusetts. ``The temporary patches will last a little time, but they're not designed for the long term. The question is why isn't the city making the permanent patch?"

The construction ban, he said, was a ``very drastic step" that cost contractors time and money. Many of them are required under the terms of labor contracts to keep paying their work crews even if they are not working. Some will seek reimbursement from the city for labor and equipment costs, he said.

KeySpan spokeswoman Carmen Fields said crews returned to work yesterday on about 20 jobs in the city.

``This is the peak of our work time," she said, but added: ``We respect and share the mayor's wish for the highest standards of conduct in the work we do. We have the same goals."

NStar spokesman Michael Durand said his company ``heard the city's message. I can speak only for NStar when I tell you we remain committed to performing a high level of work in the streets of Boston."

Spokesmen for Verizon and Comcast said their companies were only minimally affected by the ban.

The mayor said his order to halt street cuts won him praise from residents, who thanked him for taking quick action after he hit the pothole on Dorchester Avenue.

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