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Card: Salt, sand supply OK , but reserve fund is a mystery

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Road crews on the job during Tuesday's storm.

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Road crews on the job during Tuesday’s storm.

In what is becoming a rare breather between onslaughts of snow, Shelter Island Highway Department Superintendent Jay Card Jr. said Thursday he anticipates having enough sand and salt to last out the winter season.

At issue for him is the limited space at the recycling center to store salt. Mr. Card was expecting another delivery Thursday, but said even if it doesn’t come, his crew would be able to handle the roughly 60 miles of roadway that needs to be treated should the Island get blanketed again on Sunday.

Sand is not an issue, Mr. Card said. There’s plenty of that on hand and, “worst case,” would be using sand without salt for a storm beyond next week if the Island failed to get a delivery.

On Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state was mindful that some communities had insufficient supplies of road salt. The governor’s office was re-directing much of the state’s salt supply downstate and to Long Island. Governor Cumo said the state would send 130 truckloads, or about 3,500 tons of salt to areas that needed it.

But Mr. Card didn’t anticipate tapping into the state supply.“We think we’ll be okay,” Mr. Card said, noting that he checks the supply of salt daily.

What’s not OK with him is the budget that’s being eaten away by multiple storms this winter. At the beginning of the year, the Highway Department was budgeted for $21,000 for salt and sand and $35,000 for labor costs. As of the end of this week, the department has about $6,500 left in the salt/sand budget, with some of that eaten up by the orders pending. As for labor, Mr. Card’s budget has $12,900 left, but that doesn’t include costs from at least one pending payroll, he said.

“Snow is out of my control,” Mr. Card said. What happens if the budgeted money isn’t enough to meet this year’s snow removal costs? The town’s contingency fund has to pick up the costs or snow removal would have to stop, he said. Clearly, residents wouldn’t stand for no plowing and sanding and salting of roadways, he added.

The best scenario is that the Highway Department having its own funded contingency fund, Mr. Card said. From the time he first became department superintendent in January 2012, he was told that money generated from the department would not be put in a highway reserve fund because apparently some project in the past ate up that budget and more.

“When do we ever catch that account up and become whole?” he asked.

There is a reserve fund, Supervisor Jim Dougherty said, but  “Jay has blown through it.”

Mr. Card acknowledges that the reserve fund exists, but said it hasn’t been funded since he came into office. He was told by the town’s accountant that the amount coming from taxes hasn’t been enough to put money into the reserve fund despite Mr. Card’s efforts to increase income from his department while cutting expenses.