State withholding payments of promised highway funding
By Jay Braman Jr.
It remains unclear whether much paving will occur on Shandaken’s roads this year.
As paving crews blaze westward on the state-owned Route 28 this week, Shandaken Highway Superintendent Eric Hofmeister said that putting pavement on any local roads is on hold.
“We’re still waiting for our CHIPS [Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program] funding from the state,” he said. “It’s held up along with the budget.”
Highway superintendents like Hofmeister have been complaining about the lack of CHIPS funding since it became clear in April that the budget would be delayed.
At that time leaders of the two statewide associations representing locally-elected and appointed highway superintendents and public works commissioners called on Governor Paterson to include funding for local road and bridge projects in future emergency spending bills.
It never happened.
“The absence of provisions for local highway and bridge program funding, particularly for CHIPS, in the emergency spending bills sent by you to the legislature to keep the government operating without a state budget is an intolerable situation,” the two association presidents wrote in a letter to Paterson. CHIPS provides state capital funding for counties, towns, cities and villages to maintain roads and bridges under local jurisdiction.
For Hofmeister, it means no paving, as it remains unclear how much CHIPS funding the town will receive. He describes the amount of CHIPS funding expected, and hoped for, as being less than one quarter of the total highway department budget, but still being “a substantial amount.”
And the town needs every dollar it can get.
Late season snow and ice cost his department slightly more than what had been budgeted. Hofmeister, who said that no special projects are planned for any town roads this year, doesn’t feel the extra cost for spring snow removal will hurt in the long run.
Good news, he added, was that the town’s saving on routine maintenance of many of Shandaken’s unpaved roads.
Usually his department must grade these muddy thoroughfares after winter takes its toll, leaving them mushy and pothole ridden, and then cover them with a material known as Item 4, a type of crushed stone that must be purchased and trucked in.
This year it is the millings from the Route 28 repaving project that will stand in for the Item 4. And not only is there no transportation charge for it, the material itself is free.
“That’s why there’s a whole pile of it up at Glenbrook Park,” he said.