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Town Board members and supervisor at odds over repaving money

JULIE LANE PHOTO At odds over repaving are Supervisor Jim Dougherty (left) and Councilman Jim Colligan.
At odds over repaving Island roads are Supervisor Jim Dougherty (left) and Councilman Jim Colligan.

The money Highway Superintendent Jay Card Jr. had expected to be transferred to the road repair account isn’t there.

At issue is $123,000 of grant money the town received as a reimbursement that had been promised for road work months ago.

Other grant money received from State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) apparently needs to be signed off on before it can make its way to the road repair fund.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty has insisted the paperwork was being handled in the Highway Department and hasn’t hit his desk yet. Mr. Card has said it rests with Mr. Dougherty; he wants to know when Mr. Dougherty will sign off so he can begin to schedule repaving work. Mr. Dougherty said at the November 9 work session that the money can’t be transferred out of the account from which it was originally borrowed and, therefore, can’t be used for road repaving.

That doesn’t please Councilman Jim Colligan. Mr. Colligan said if a way to transfer that into the highway repair account can’t be found, he and his colleagues need to find another way to fund road repaving.

The subject has been tossed around for months. A plan developed last year to spread road repaving over a year and a half is now lagging as roads that critically need repaving, as Mr. Card and Town Engineer John Cronin have said, will slide into the category of those that have to be completely rebuilt, costing much more money.

Mr. Dougherty denied seeing a plan for the repaving and disputed that many roads are deteriorating. “I want to pave the roads when the roads need paving,” he said, insisting that his understanding of a Cornell study of Shelter Island roads showed them to be in generally good condition. He said he didn’t want to put a burden on taxpayers for work he believes isn’t necessary.

To that, Mr. Colligan outlined several roads he said were in deplorable condition, but were repaved in the past year and noted there are a number of others that need to be done this fall and others next spring and next fall.

Councilman Paul Shepherd said while Mr. Dougherty doesn’t see the paving work as necessary, the other Town Board members “have a fundamental disagreement on that. I hate bucking you,” he told the supervisor. “We’re not ambushing you,” but there have been previous discussions and agreements on a plan to proceed with work on a staged basis.

“We keep trying to bring everybody together,” Councilwoman Chris Lewis said about not wanting to force a vote on a resolution.

But she added if board can’t find a way to get work started, it would have to come to a vote in which at least three and maybe four members would agree to keep to the plans for repaving on schedule in spite of Mr. Dougherty’s objection.

At that, Mr. Dougherty suggested it might already be too late to start repaving work this late in the fall season.

“You’re a cagey guy,” Mr. Shepherd said, referencing the supervisor’s argument.

It appears likely the Town Board will again turn to the Cornell expert who assessed the roads last year and to the town’s accountants, the Port Jefferson firm of Cullen & Danowski, about finding money for the highway repair fund so that work can be scheduled.

In other business, the Town Board:
• Building Inspector Reed Karen said during budget talks that he had been driving a town vehicle with failing brakes,so the board has been offered a 2002 car by Town Engineer John Cronin that might be substituted until a newer vehicle is available. Board members agreed to have the car checked by Highway Department personnel.
• Mr. Shepherd informed his colleagues that he has been experiencing some irregular heartbeats that are possibly related to anxiety, and said he will undergo tests that could make him less available in the near future.