By JOE LoTEMPLIO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Local highway departments will receive a much-needed boost in state funding this year.
“This is just wonderful news,” Essex County Board of Supervisors Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said.
“We’ve been putting a lot of things off in the county and in the 18 towns because we just couldn’t do them, and now hopefully we can get some of these projects done.”
The funding boost comes in the form of the 2013-14 Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program, better known as CHIPS.
As part of the soon-to-be approved state budget, the program will increase by about $75 million statewide for a total of $438 million.
Funding in the program had been frozen for the past five years.
With about 87 percent of all roads and bridges in the state owned by local governments, State Sen. Betty Little said the funding increase will make a big difference.
“Local highway superintendents were here in Albany earlier this month. They filled the conference room and made their case,” she said in a news release.
“After five years of frozen aid, this is a big boost and much needed, given the increased cost of fuel and asphalt.
“We all depend on safe roads and bridges. Every community benefits from this type of funding.”
With the increase, Clinton County will see an additional $874,778 this year, for a boost of about 23.2 percent.
Legislator Harry McManus (D-Area 1, Champlain), who chairs the county’s Transportation Committee, said it will allow some bridges that are in poor shape to be fixed.
“We have a lot of areas in disrepair, and Al (Highway Superintendent Al Rascoe) has done a good job of prioritizing, but this will hopefully allow us to do some things that we’ve had to put off,” McManus said.
Of the county’s money, nearly $400,000 will go to the county, and about $388,000 will be shared by the 14 towns. Another $25,871 will go to the four villages, and the City of Plattsburgh will get $61,992.
City Engineer Kevin Farrington said that with 66 miles of roads to maintain in the city, every bit of funding helps.
“We put it to good use,” he said. “We stretch it as much as we can.”
Essex County will see $723,448 more, for an increase of about 23.8 percent.
Douglas said the county has been lobbying the state for the past few years for more money.
“This is just wonderful news, and we can’t thank the governor enough because this was desperately needed,” Douglas said.
The county will get $387,000 of the increase, and the 18 towns will see a total of $317,532. The two villages will share about $19,000.
Franklin County will get $785,747 more this year, for an increase of about 24.3 percent.
The county will see $291,647 of that money, and the 19 towns will share $409,743. The five villages will divide $84,356.
Legislature Chairman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay) said the increase in funding is very welcome.
“Obviously there are a lot of roads and bridges that need work in the county and in the towns,” he said.
Jones said that ensuring the roads and bridges are safe is one of the most important aspects of local government.
“It’s one of the few things where taxpayers can actually see their investments because everybody travels on these roads to get to work, to go to sports, to bring their kids to school, and it’s what they see,” he said.
“They can see their tax dollars at work.”
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