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Highway Supe: Roads in danger of ‘falling apart’
Ask Jay Card Jr. what keeps him awake nights and he’s quick to respond: “I’m seriously worried about the roads falling apart.”
The Shelter Island Highway Department Superintendent and Commissioner of Public Work isn’t trying to be dramatic, but the amount of money the town would need to bring the roads up to par and maintain them simply isn’t there from either local taxes or New York State Department of Transportation money, Mr. Card said.
“I try to be as frugal as long as I can,” he added. He’s sensitive to the need to keep local taxes in check, but with the state-imposed 2 percent cap and costs the town has had to absorb to take over the Ambulance Corps and extend a pension plan to its volunteer members, that “bit into the pot this year,” he said. “I’m not against it,” he was quick to add about the other expenses .
But coupled with contractually agreed upon wages for town workers, there was little money to add to other budgets, he said.
Mr. Card is also pushing for some new equipment that would not only make the work more efficient, but ultimately save money. Among those is the need for a forklift to replace a skid-steer loader currently being used to move mounds of material. The skid-steer loader operates so that when it turns, one set of tires skids along the ground instead of rolling. The result, of course, is heavy wear and tear on tires that must be replaced frequently. A few replacements of sets of tires would pay for a forklift, he said.
He’s not adverse to trying to share equipment with other East End towns, although he worries about whether the life of shared equipment would be as long as for town-owned equipment he can assure is properly used and maintained. And for some equipment, sharing isn’t an option as it would be needed by everyone at the same time. But he sees opportunities for sharing with the Village of Dering Harbor and the Heights Property Owners Corporation, he said.
The Town Board is aware of the problems wrought by the money shortage, Mr. Card said. His alternative to a a large project to overhaul the roads is to do preventive maintenance on roads, filling cracks and fixing potholes, and buy equipment as he can and then maintain it well so it lasts.
The town is in the process of purchasing a new screening plant for use at the recycling center to process leaves, transforming them into salable topsoil and grind brush into high quality landscaping mulch that can be sold. Mr. Card said he was exploring new outlets for the town’s recyclable commodities that would bring in more money.
And he still hasn’t given up on the idea of purchasing a Segway or similar personal mobility machine that would enable workers at the recycling center to move to various areas more rapidly.