Written by Williston Park Mayor Paul Ehrbar Friday, 11 February 2011 00:00
In this past week’s newspaper, a resident asked two questions in the form of comments regarding village performance/decisions. The questions are reasonable and a response seems appropriate as others in the community may have the same questions. Open dialogue is good, as it promotes worthwhile discussion.
The first question asked, questioned the village plow techniques during the recent snowstorms. The concern raised, indicated that it appears that the work crews have changed philosophy and no longer plow curb to curb but rather plows three feet away from each curb. While it appears that this may be the case, in actuality the plow trucks attempt to place the plow blade as close as possible to the curb, depending on weather conditions. The first storm, whose remnants remain, was a challenge to our experienced staff.
The amount of snow, along with wind conditions made it extremely difficult for the drivers. This blizzard created a number of problems for the crews. However, they handled these conditions very well and did an excellent job. As noted in previous columns, the crews are not finished with their job after their first or second pass with the plows. While making additional runs to complete the job problems begin to develop when cars are returned to the street, not allowing the trucks access to push snow back further to the curb. Prior to the last storm, the workers made attempts to push snow closer to the curbs; however, cars, combined with the weight of the snow (as it had turned to ice) made this difficult to accomplish. The heavy snow last week created new problems as the storm began Wednesday and didn’t end until Thursday.
Although initial snowfall was approximately 4-5 inches during the day, over night an additional 14-15 inches fell over a very short period of time. The village does not own the large snow removal trucks possessed by the State, County, and North Hempstead. While our men try and plow before the snow gets too deep and heavy, the conditions of the latest storm, on top of the two prior storms, made it extremely difficult to move the snow up to the curbs. Record snow falls and record cold weather has hindered the crews. The crews continued to try and clean as many areas as possible since the storm ended, but again cars, and the sheer volume of the snow has made the task more difficult. Philosophy of plowing curb to curb has not changed. Record setting conditions have impacted the ability of our equipment. Having been with the crews at various times throughout all three storms I observed their dedication and perseverance on attempting to do the best job possible. I ask all to understand the difficult nature of the task at hand. I assure all residents that our crews are doing their best under very difficult conditions.
The second question concerned the timing of the starting of the Ackerman road project. While not wanting to review the history in great detail, a number of facts need to be discussed. First, it must be noted; once again, this million dollar grant was received in 2005 by then Mayor Doreen Ehrbar. Initial plans were begun at that time.
However, a new administration came into office. For a number of reasons the project was held up for reasons I’m not sure of. However, in late 2009 and early 2010 the project once again moved forward. It was announced in February 2010 that the project was ready to begin. After taking office in April, a bid was put out in May.
After the bid opening, it was determined that Pratt Brothers was the lowest bidder, with the next closest bidder approximately $300,000 higher. However, due to the state’s budget problems, NYSDOT would not allow the project to be awarded or started.
Finally, go ahead was given by the state in September. The bid was awarded and discussions took place between NYSDOT and our engineers. Many discussions took place concerning a variety of issues. The issue of completing the job prior to the winter was one of these issues. Both the engineers and NYSDOT professionals recommended moving forward. Besides the most important need to pave our roads, two other major considerations played a role in making the decision to go ahead with the project.
First, with both the State and Federal budgets under stress there was a fear of possibly losing the million dollar grant. Secondly, if Pratt Brothers decided to back out of the bid, the next bid would have raised the price an additional $300,000. Considering the aforementioned it was decided to move forward. As your Mayor I accept full responsibly for that decision. While I enjoy a good game of poker I was not about to gamble with this road money and take the chance of losing the million dollars. In actuality, the job was less than a week away from completion when cold weather moved in earlier than normal. Although the project came to a halt, both our engineers and mandatory inspectors on the site indicated that the layover would not compromise the integrity of the job.
Again I ask all to be patient and understanding, knowing that when completed, a number of village roads will have received a much needed repaving.