Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine is calling on Town Board members to approve four steps of a six-point plan he said would strengthen and reinforce the Town’s Highway Department after its less than stellar response to the blizzard earlier this month.
The four proposals floated by Romaine include:
• pay-rate increases to outside contractors
• a re-evaluation of Brookhaven’s insurance policy mandate for contractors
• use of an outside firm to review the condition of all vehicles involved in snow removal
• enhanced employee training with regard to 451-TOWN calls.
"We have to evaluate some of the components that tied the hands of our highway department in some instances," the supervisor said on Thursday. "I've put forth these four resolutions to partially cure these problems. You can see what each one of these problems individually created; imagine collectively what these problems did."
One proposal would increase the rate of pay for contractors using small plows from $56 to $69 per hour, with heavy equipment operators being offered $250 per hour.
"It allows us to stay competitive in the market place," said Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico.
Councilwoman Connie Kephart expressed concern about this proposal, asking what impact this would have on Brookhaven’s budget if there were more severe winter storms this year.
In addition to seeking a raise in hourly rates for contractors, Romaine is also seeking approval for Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto to re-revaluate the Town’s insurance policy for outside contractors. In 2010, Brookhaven increased the liability insurance contractors needed to carry to work for the Town and required a specific snowplow endorsement from the insurance carrier.
Contractors have objected to Brookhaven’s required snowplow endorsement, since it can cost between $500 and $5,000 depending on the specific piece of equipment to receive such an endorsement.
Other towns, such as Islip, do not require the endorsement. The Town attorney will be asked to investigate other town’s requirements, insurance costs and present a report to the Town Board, Romaine said.
To address what he called the Town's internal issues, Romaine wants the Town Board to approve soliciting bids to hire an outside firm to conduct a full inventory and evaluation of the Highway Department's equipment. The Town would also seek a five-year plan that suggests future purchase and replacement of equipment.
"To be quite frank, I think we are entitled and the people of Brookhaven are entitled to know exactly what they have in the highway department," Romaine said.
While Councilwoman Kathy Walsh said she would support a study, the Democratic nominee for Highway Superintendent election on March 5 questioned if the study is necessary.
"I would rather spend money on equipment than an RFP to tell us what we need and don't have," she said.
Lastly, the Romaine wants Town Board approval to fund training for highway employees on software that will use 451-TOWN calls to create maps of snowplow, drainage and roadway complaints. The exact amount needed is not known.
These four proposals are the first steps in a 6-point plan Romaine outlined at a Wednesday press conference held at Mastic Community Center.