Press-Republican

December 31, 2011

Almost $1 million goes to Essex County flood repairs next year

LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

ELIZABETHTOWN — The Essex County Department of Public Works is getting an extra $1 million for flood repairs in 2012, despite efforts to use some of those funds for existing road programs.

The County Board of Supervisors granted Department of Public Works Superintendent Anthony LaVigne's request to move $918,800 in unspent asphalt and project money from this year's budget to the flood account.

But first, Supervisor Edward Hatch (D-Willsboro) wanted $210,000 of it encumbered for 2012 road improvements, such as surface treatment.

"I understand county highway has a lot of work to do, and they say they're too busy. I don't understand why a lot of work is being hired out to the towns," Hatch said.

"I think there should be some sort of a set-aside account, an encumbered account."

INSTEAD OF BONDING

LaVigne said if he used the $1 million for anything other than the county's 12.5 percent share of flood-repair costs, they might have to bond for the work next year. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is paying for the rest.

"The reason I put that money in the flood account is so we wouldn't have to bond," he said. "In regards to surface treating, it is approximately $210,000. We didn't do that this year."

He said he didn't have a problem putting money in the 2012 budget for surface treating, which includes road striping and crushed stone application.

"I will still try to get this work done in 2012, along with flood repair work," he said.

County Manager Daniel Palmer said the 2012 budget could not by law be changed until 2012, however. Palmer said they could move the money from one account to another, but not encumber it, as Hatch wanted, until 2012.

MUST CHARGE TOWNS

Palmer said the county had $8 million in damage from floods in April and August.

"These are projects he (LaVigne) was not able to get to because of the storm," Palmer said of the leftover $1 million.

LaVigne said he wasn't able to do scheduled roadwork in 2011 because of the floods.

Some towns hire the County Department of Public Works to do work, but Supervisor Roby Politi (R-North Elba) said he understands the towns can do the work cheaper than the county.

LaVigne said that may be correct.

"We have to charge the towns. As far as going cheaper, if the towns did it themselves, they don't have the equipment and personnel costs I have to bill."

REQUEST WITHDRAWN

The county also hires town highway departments to do work, but LaVigne said he does save money when he uses his department to work on county roads, instead of hiring towns.

"That surface treatment does an excellent job," Hatch said. "I think it's important. You're cutting back your own improvement programs, and it's very dangerous."

Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) said Moriah's Tracy Road, which is very winding, needs striping.

"The one thing most taxpayers see is your highways," Scozzafava said. "Your center-line striping, to do away with that, that's a mistake on some of these roads."

Hatch withdrew his request to encumber part of the money.

"You've made your point, though," Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) told him.

Email Lohr McKinstry at: lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com