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Winter’s road rage: Card tells Board the bad news

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Highway Superintendent Jay Card Jr. gave a report on the Island's roads to the Town Board Tuesday.
REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Highway Superintendent Jay Card Jr. gave a report on the Island’s roads to the Town Board Tuesday.

The Highway Department did a professionally sound job clearing Island roads of snow during the brutal winter, and stayed within budget to get it done.

But now, “Our worst days are ahead of us,” Highway Superintendent Jay Card Jr. told the Town Board at its work session Tuesday. Mr. Card was referring to repairing the roads after the destruction winter imposed on them.

It’s a situation that’s so bad that some stretches of Island road will have to be left as they are for the time being, Mr. Card said.

Parts of Midway Road are so far gone that “I don’t think we can put all the money into fixing it up without losing 4 to 5 other miles of road,” the superintendent said. “It might have to be a sacrificial road. We might have to let that one go for awhile and focus on the roads we can save.”

In some places on the Island, the roads “are down to dirt,” Mr. Card said

Typically the Island loses about 5 percent of its roads due to harsh weather, or about 2.6 miles, Mr. Card reported. To properly repave that mileage costs approximately $400,000. This past winter damage to roads is estimated at about $1.2 million.

Calling on the board to lobby state and federal representatives to get money for Island road repairs and reclamations, Mr. Card noted that state money granted from the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) will only see an increase this year of about $14,000.

“I can barely do a parking lot with that,” Mr. Card said.

There is a basic unfairness in the state system, he added, when Governor Andrew Cuomo “saw fit to stick $650 million in his own pocket for discretionary funds.” Statewide, 87 percent of roads are local, Mr. Card said. If things continue as they are, “Once you get off the interstate we’ll have nothing to drive on,” he added.

Councilman Ed Brown said that an idea that “I get beat up on” is to take some of the Community Preservation Fund money, which is dedicated to buying open space, and put it toward road repairs and reclamation.

In other business: Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Doug Matz discussed raising fess for variances and zoning changes. There is a draft making the rounds of Town Board members to kick up fees, which call for, in some cases, a doubling of the present fee structure. Councilwoman Chris Lewis, in her role as Deputy Supervisor in Supervisor Jim Dougherty’s absence, said Mr. Matz was invited because, “We thought that some of the [proposed] fees were a bit excessive,” especially when a variance was asked for a mechanical change such as a generator or an air-conditioning system.

But Mr. Matz said that the work his board does for an addition to a house or a generator “is similar even if the scope of the project is much less.”

Mr. Brown said that it still seemed excessive and Mr. Matz reiterated that the workload for the ZBA is no different in examining a request for a small shed or a major project. “The ZBA in both cases is visiting the sites, looking at how it impacts the neighborhood and neighbors,” Mr. Matz said.

The board concluded that more discussion was needed and the issue will be on the agenda for next week.