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Highway budget down to the bone

It could be a long, hard winter at the town’s highway department.

Despite his repeated requests for money for road resurfacing, equipment repairs, and adding back a seventh motor equipment operator (MEO) to his workforce in the 2013 town budget, town highway superintendent Peter Ripperger left Monday night’s Town Board work session with none of the above.

Officials axed $235,000 requested for road repaving and $62,000 in needed equipment repairs. They also failed to even discuss the reinstatement of the MEO. The cuts were part of the Town Board’s determined drive, led by its Republican members, to get the 15% increase called for in the 2013 preliminary budget down to just below 2% to avoid breaking the state’s tax cap.

Democratic Town Supervisor Peter Parsons has been a major supporter of Mr. Ripperger’s requests for the needed funds throughout the budget discussion process. He has said that citizens deserve roads in good repair and he believes this is an obligation of the town.

With the exception of Chapel Road in Waccabuc and Wakeman Road in Vista,

the town’s roads have not received any major attention for about four years and many have deteriorated.

Mr. Parsons said that 24 miles of Lewisboro roads were “highest priority” for repaving.

The 24 miles of roads are distributed as follows: Waccabuc, one-half mile, or 2%; Cross River, two miles, or 8%; South Salem, five miles, or 21%; Goldens Bridge, five and one-half miles, or 23%; and Vista, 11 miles, or 46%.”

Roads a non-starter

But when the repaving budget issue was put on the table at Monday night’s Town Board work session, the three Republican members of the board indicated it was a non-starter.

“I think we need to take this out of the budget and put it to a permissive referendum,” said Frank Kelly. “You can’t buy a Rolls Royce if you’ve only got the money for a Yugo.”

John Pappalardo said any referendum for bonding for road paving should go before the voters.

Peter DeLucia said, “We need to sit down with a contractor and have a presentation on oil and stone versus blacktop. We need to put together an RFP [request for proposal] and then go out and bond for it.”

Democrat Dan Welsh objected.

“I find big bonds for things like this are not fiscally sound,” he said.

But the Republicans were determined to pursue the bonding idea.

“Could we also bond for equipment repairs?” Mr. Kelly asked.

Mr. Pappalardo attempted to put things in perspective. “The positive piece of this is that we are all committed to improving the condition of our roads,” he said.

Speaking to The Ledger on Tuesday, Mr. Parsons expressed his disappointment at the board’s unwillingness to start even a modest annual road-repaving program.

“I believe town government needs to stand up and take responsibility for this most fundamental of services — keeping the roads in repair,” he said. “Every household pays for bad roads at their auto repair shop. And bonding is simply not fiscally prudent.”

Mr. Ripperger told The Ledger, “I was certainly not happy to find the MEO position will not be filled and no provisions made for the winter. The removal of the repair money was also very upsetting. We usually spend about $100,000 each year on mechanical repairs on our old equipment and we will now not have money to keep things going.”

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  • Dan

    Sad really that certain elected officials in charge of maintaining the town will allow it to fall into disrepair, all in the name of taking an anti-tax stand. Of course there will be those residents who want a zero or near zero tax increase every year. They are not responsible to the town as elected officials are. Mr. Parsons needs to step up and separate himself from the others and do what it right for the long term good of the town.

  • Brutus

    This is not about proper maintenance of infrastructure. It is about politics. Placing funds for paving, which are by accounting rules a capital expenditure, into a budget as a reccurring expense year after year is the height of irresponsibility and just a means of padding the town’s budget. History shows us that the added funds will eventually be funneled to employees who by the way, happened to make up most of the audience on Monday.

    Even though the supervisor said that he does not “trust” the voters, the concept of putting a capital improvement project up to a referendum and bonding at current favorable interest rates is a good one.That would also give time to get an expert survey done showing what is really needed and prioritizing the plan.

    Our roads are in decent shape when compared to our neighbors. Lewisboro paves its roads on a regular basis using the State’s CHIPS money. The State highways we depend.

    The Highway superintendents back of the napkin plan looks to pave roads near where he and the supervisor live in Vista and near to his political supporters in Goldens Bridge. Maybe that is why they are afraid to give voters a chance to decide.

  • lJL

    We need to rethink local government. Let’s either go the volunteer route, outsource to private companies or merge with another town to gain economies of scale. We deserve the best infrastructure and services. We already share our school system with Katonah and the library system is county wide. I love the history of our town but we are on an unsustainable path. We have more expenses than revenues so we are going to go through this every year for the foreseeable future. Let’s find permanent solutions to this issue now before our 14MM in debt balloons out of control. The deficits at the state and federal levels are not getting better so we need to find ways to be independently viable especially since it is a matter of time when inflation rears its ugly head.

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