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New Berlin keeps workers scurrying to fill potholes and avoid vehicle damage

April 21, 2014

New Berlin — Despite the weather punishing streets and drivers by opening up dozens of potholes, only one angry driver has filed a damage claim at the New Berlin City Hall.

"I never see a lot of them," said New Berlin City Clerk Kari Morgan. "Our streets department does a real good job of keeping up."

Don Ullman, New Berlin streets manager, agreed, having sent his crews scurrying all over the city to keep up with the ever-burgeoning craters.

"We kept up with it pretty well," Ullman said. The city crews care for the 228 miles of city streets and roads, not county or state roads that tend to be the main thoroughfares.

But as the area goes into the ups and downs of the spring thaw that is so hard on roads, the battle goes on.

"I would say this is getting to be one of the worst years," said Ullman who has been with New Berlin for 35 years and streets manager for 20.

The demand for asphalt has been so high from communities needing to fill their potholes that the city's normal asphalt supplier ran out, he said.

"We had to go to two or three different suppliers to get it," he said.

Despite the demand, last year's price of $40 per ton for the cold mix asphalt has gone up a relatively modest $1.50 per ton, he said. But that's on top of steep price jumps over the last few years.

The city uses the cold mix in winter and is only now switching to the more permanent hot mix. The cold mix is tamped down into potholes during the winter as a temporary fix to get drivers through without too much damage, he said. "So people don't bust their cars," Ullman said.

The trouble with the cold mix is that it comes out.

In fact, if it's raining, the asphalt patch can come out overnight, he said. In addition, the patch must have enough asphalt above the road's surface so cars can push it firmly into the potholes, leaving the patch even with the road, he said. But getting too much in the hole will leave a bump.

It can be tricky, but Ullman said, "You get the knack after while."

The hot asphalt mix pours easily into the potholes and it stays much better, he added.

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