Brookhaven Looks To Improve Highway Department

Town board approves proposals from supervisor, but two Democrats speak out against raising fees for outside contractors.

With Brookhaven’s recent poor snow removal efforts still a discussion point for many, the town board on Tuesday approved several proposals officials said should help avoid the numerous problems seen in response to the February blizzard.

Put forth by Supervisor Ed Romaine, the town board unanimously approved four proposals designed to improve Brookhaven’s beleaguered Highway Department:

  • hiring an outside firm to inventory and evaluate all Highway Department equipment and vehicles;
  • ordering the town attorney to re-evaluate outside contractor insurance requirements;
  • training highway employees on software to use 451-TOWN to make maps of residents' plowing, drainage and roadway complaints;
  • installing GPS in town vehicles for tracking and communication.

Romaine’s proposal to raise the hourly rates Brookhaven pays to outside contractors was a bit more controversial. Councilwoman Connie Kepert and Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld, both Democrats, attempted unsuccessfully to table this motion.

"I think we really need to look at what went wrong during the storm rather than rushing to judgment. What I think we are doing is rushing to judgment," Kepert said.

Wally Greene, president of Brookhaven's highway department, spoke against outside snowplow rates being raised, noting that his union gave concessions this year going without raises as part of an effort to help the town save money.

"That money should be used to build up this department and the equipment we need to move snow," Greene said. 

Kepert, as the board's highway liaison, renewed her call for a "fact-finding" of what went wrong during the cleanup of the Feb. 8 blizzard. The councilwoman said she wasn't even sure all outside contractors called in actually reported to the town. 

But Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico called the move to not raise rates “the most foolish thing to do.”

“Who ever votes against this should move out of this town,” he said.

After failing to get the votes to table the measure, town board members approved raising rates to as much as $250 per hour by a vote of 5-0-2 with Kepert and Fiore-Rosenfeld abstaining.

MatthewD February 28, 2013 at 01:29 PM
I'm confused. What happened to the claim by Romaine that the Town didn't have any authority over how the Highway Dept. is run? During and after the blizzard, when Romaine was asked why he wasn't here and when he did nothing to alleviate all the problems, his answer was that he doesn't run the Highway Dept? Has something changed? At a time when every municipality is looking to cut spending, is the answer really to raise rates to outside contractors by $250? What happened to being fiscally responsible? Kudos to the two Democrats for voting against this, and I agree with Connie Kepert, let's not just throw money at the problems, let's look at what caused the problems.
Ernestine Franco February 28, 2013 at 01:50 PM
Well, MatthewD, you are not the only one who is confused. Obviously, the Town Board did not hear when Romaine said the Town has no authority over the Highway Department and therefore not resposible for the debacle during the last blizzard. Or has one of the "legislators/politicians" decided to put up a referundum to create a Departmne tof Public Works? And did I miss the vote that did this? You are either in charge or you're not--it can't be both ways!! Or is this a way to distract taxpayers--throw money at the problem and not really look at what the problems are. Politics at their best again!!
ss March 02, 2013 at 09:45 AM
Penny wise dollar foolish is my thought on your comment. The last time there was any increase to subcontractors is when fuel was below $2 a gallon. The highway dept. needs to be in sync with other municipals as far as pay rates. This has been overlooked for years and is the reason why the number of snow sub's decreased dramatically. Some municipals have a waiting list for snow sub's in these highway departments which have a high successful rate. I'm all against raising taxes but you either want your roads plowed or not? The issue I disagree of is hiring and outside firm to evaluate the trucks. How much will this cost? This can be done "in house" very easily. the mechanics for the highway department are fighting a loosing battle over budget. They are unable to purchase the necessary parts to repair a problem correctly rather than bubble gum and bailing wire. The most cost effective way to correct this problem is in house. Who ever wins the special election needs to have an open ear. The employees of the highway department know what they need. They are fighting a battle with hands tied behind their back.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »