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.”