County addresses road, bridge concerns
SCHUYLER COUNTY--The highway department was at the forefront of discussion Monday, July 13 during the Schuyler County legislative meeting. Legislator James Howell Jr. commented on three issues during the meeting relating to the condition of the county's bridges, roads and the employment situation in the highway department.
The legislature discussed 10 bridges the county is responsible for maintaining as being rated deficient by the state. According to the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT), a deficient rating does not mean a bridge is unsafe, but requires corrective maintenance due to deterioration. Howell indicated the poor state of certain county roads and bridges need to be more of a priority.
"After looking at the situation with a new county highway superintendent, as we look at our equipment, as we look at our road surfaces and our bridges, in my opinion we are in trouble in our county highway department," Howell said.
Howell described many county roads as being in terrible shape, citing County Road 1 as an example. He said the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funding has held together year after year, but added the diversion of funds has had the county take steps backward when it comes to maintaining roads.
"We need to do more than chip away at it," Howell said.
County Administrator Tim O'Hearn said a bridge needs to score under a five to receive a deficient rating. O'Hearn said while the deficient bridges rank in the four range, a few years could see those scores decrease.
Legislative Chairman Dennis Fagan stated the county has made substantial progress over the last couple years, adding the county has been increasing funding for road restoration work. He said it is hard to schedule bridge work when they get no aid to do it, and that Schuyler County is not the only county having this type of problem.
"We have got a formidable task," Fagan said.
Fagan also stated of the 47 bridges the county is responsible for, 20 of them are located along town roads. He added he was recently informed the county was responsible for maintaining these bridges instead of the towns. Fagan said he was told the county has historically done this for these particular bridges.
"Catharine has one, Cayuta has one, Dix has one, Hector has nine, Montour has five, Orange has two, Reading has none and Tyrone has one," Fagan said.
A resolution was also added to the agenda which allowed the creation and filling of a temporary motor equipment operator position. Howell said there is a need for another operator in the department since there are currently two highway employees on medical leave for an undetermined amount of time. The new position would be for up to 40 hours a week for a period of four months at a $16.33 hourly rate.
"The employment situation in the highway department has grown somewhat serious," Howell said, adding the department has 15 employees, which is down from the 30 it had when he worked for the county in the 1970s. Howell mentioned the summer is the worst time of year to have two employees out due to the amount of work that needs to be done.
In other business:
• The legislature voted to adopt amendments to the Schuyler County Comprehensive Plan. The plan was approved following a public hearing in which no member of the public spoke.
Schuyler County Planning Director Kristin VanHorn said the plan was updated to reflect the principles of New York State Energy and Research Development's (NYSERDA) Cleaner Greener Program. She said they were able to incorporate things into the plan like increasing walkability, transportation and renewable energy resources. VanHorn mentioned it was part of a larger grant by NYSERDA for more planning initiatives in communities.