By Mara Certic
Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor appeared before the town board last Thursday to ask for more money to fund necessary projects along the town’s roadways.
“We used to get $3.5 million to pave roads, now we’re hovering around $1.7 million,” he said in an interview on said Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor said in an interview on Wednesday.
According to the town’s 2015-2019 Tentative Capital Program, Mr. Gregor and his department had requested $5 million for townwide road improvements. In her tentative budget, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst allocated just $1.2 million to improving roadways, with an additional $975,000 earmarked for work on Dune Road in Hampton Bays. There is a total of $3.8 million in spending for highway work in the town’s capital budget.
“We have a problem with a lot of subdivisions built in the ’80s and ’90s,” Mr. Gregor said. These aging roads, which are receive less traffic, he explained, have not been repaired as frequently as Southampton’s busier streets.
Mr. Gregor explained that investing more money in improving roadways now will allow the town to save money in the future. The more deteriorated the roads are at the time of repair, Mr. Gregor said, the more costly it is to fix them.
“If they fund us at $3.5 million for the next five years compared to what she’s saying, if we spend that money now, we’ll save 12 million by not letting the roads deteriorate,” Mr. Gregor added.
On one particular road in Hampton Bays, Mr. Gregor said the highway department would probably have to resort to putting gravel down this winter, as a temporary solution to the bad driving conditions.
“The road is deteriorated and being flooded constantly,” he said. If they have to plow the road this winter, they will likely break off chunks of the road and damage it further, he said.
“She gave me a budget and said ‘We’re hoping for good weather’,” Mr.Gregor said. “I can’t prepare for that, I need to prepare for the worst.”
Mr. Gregor had also initially requested $1.1 million for additional highway equipment, which the supervisor reduced to $350,000 in her preliminary budget for 2015.
“We are one of the few towns that doesn’t have a dedicated snow budget,” Mr. Gregor said, adding some of the funding he was looking for would replace four 30-year-old snow plows.
Mr. Gregor is also seeking more money to pay for salt and other highway equipment.
In 2014, the highway department had to do 15 budget transfers “to keep things going” according to Mr. Gregor.
“Actually the highway department’s broke right now, for the rest of the year,” Mr. Gregor added, saying there is just $8,000 left in the department’s checking account to last through the end of the year because of last year’s harsh winter.
“Just like overtime, they never gave us enough for overtime,” he said, “all we have left is $34,000.” The leaves of late fall and storms of early winter often call for highway workers to put in extra hours, and the department will only be able to fund that to a point, he said.
“We’re trying to keep people safe and maintain the town’s liability. When you put your kid on a school bus you expect the road system to be safe,” Mr. Gregor said.
Southampton Town Comptroller Len Marchese discussed the preliminary capital budget with the town board following the highway department’s request.
The department’s $3.8 million budget includes rollover spending, he said.
“Alex talked about having only a $2 million budget, but what happens is this is money we already borrowed or allocated for Dune Road is $1 million, that’s in your budget,” Mr. Marchese said, adding that the town could decide to instead put that money toward road repaving, which Supervisor Throne-Holst said was a “remote possibility.”
Mr. Marchese said there is some money that is expected to roll over into next year’s budget, but he said the board could discuss options of further supplementing the highway department’s spending budget.
The town board must adopt its budget by Thursday, November 20, as mandated by state law.