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Town to pump $250,000 in reserves into highway department budget

10/20/2015 12:51 PM |

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This past harsh winter took its toll on the Southold Town highway department budget.

The coffers are now totally empty, said superintendent Vincent Orlando.

“We’re out of funding to continue to pave roads as of today,” Mr. Orlando told the Town Board at a work session Tuesday. And yet, Peconic Bay Boulevard remains a mess and roads across town need work before this winter’s cycle of snow and freezing temperatures causes more damage.

To pay for last-minute road repairs before winter arrives, the board is expected to vote tonight to free up $250,000 from its roughly $5.7 million in highway department reserves.

“This is what the fund is for,” said councilman James Dinizio.

The cost wasn’t a total surprise to the board. In March, Mr. Orlando alerted members that the winter had done significant damage to the town’s roads, far more than the town had budgeted to fix.

“It was the perfect condition to destroy roads,” he said at Tuesday’s meeting. Some roads in Orient and East Marion were down to bare dirt by the time spring came this past year.

Mr. Orlando has applied for a $250,000 grant for next year’s repaving projects, but that wouldn’t address the work that still needs to be done this fall. He said the department only has a few weeks left to get the remaining paving done before it becomes too cold.

“We can’t leave the town in disarray,” he said.

The highway department would need about $300,000 to $400,000 to finish all the work, but Mr. Orlando said he believes he’ll be able to “squeak by” on $250,000. Injecting reserve money into the budget is a “tarnished silver bullet” that will help the department get through the rest of this year, Mr. Orlando said.

Town Supervisor Scott Russell said the town will recoup the reserves money over the next few years by setting extra money aside in future budgets.

But the town’s quick fix this year will barely make a dent in the roughly $5 million of overall road repairs the town still needs.

Looking forward, Mr. Russell said the Town Board may consider setting up a bond to cover some additional road work. The regular highway department budget each year could cover the rest.

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