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Towns Plan to Bill County for Road Maintenance

County says they do not have legal authority to charge Rockland for the upkeep of fixtures on county roads within their borders

Orangetown and Clarkstown officials want Rockland County to shoulder the cost of maintaining the county roads within their borders, as well as the traffic signals, streetlights and fire hydrants along them.

But the Rockland County Department of Law states town officials lack the legal authority to take that action.

The Clarkstown Town Board approved a resolution at its July 10 meeting to bill the county for those utilities.  Orangetown officials discussed similar action at their workshop last night and are expected to vote on a formal resolution next week.  

The towns of Ramapo, Haverstraw and Stony Point are expected to follow suit and vote on similar resolutions. The towns have been paying those costs, but their resolutions claim that they are the legal responsibility of the county.

The statement issued by the county disputes that argument and determined there was no statutory basis since streetlights and traffic signals are placed on the county roads at the request of the individual town and that fire hydrants are the responsibility of the local fire district.

“The County is responsible to improve, maintain and repair roads in the County Road System, not the appurtenant structures along the road.  Specifically, as set forth in the Highway Law, Town boards may provide for lighting of roads which is not requested and approved by the County.  The expense of installing, maintaining and caring for such lighting is a Town charge with moneys appropriated in the same manner as other town expenses.  

Our County Superintendent of Highways advises that, in Rockland County, streetlights are placed on county roads at the request of the Town.  The Town submits an application directly to Orange & Rockland ('O&R') to install the streetlights.  The only charge involved is for the actual electric usage, which is billed monthly by O&R to the Town.  Similarly, traffic lights in Rockland County are placed at the request (and option) of the Town by permit from the County.

In addition, as set forth in Town Law, the 'furnishing, erection, maintenance and care of fire hydrants' are the responsibility of the Fire District.  Thus, in our view, the Town of Clarkstown and any other Town who has approved this resolution will be looking for the courts to render a decision of first impression.” 

The Town of Clarkstown determined it has been paying approximately $460,479 a year for the costs of maintaining those fixtures along county roads within its boundaries. Of the 1,982 fire hydrants in Clarkstown, 247 are on county roads.  The Town estimates the costs for fire hydrants on county roads is approximately $230,866.  There are 5,359 streetlights throughout Clarkstown with 526 on county roads.  The Town estimates the annual cost for streetlights on county roads is approximately $99,650.  In Clarkstown there are 87 traffic signals and 52 of those are on county roads and cost $129,963 to maintain yearly. 

In Orangetown, the annual maintenance cost for the 471 streetlights on county roads amounts to $82,547.  The cost of 28 traffic signals on county roads is $97,611 and for 91 fire hydrants is $83,464. 

“As we start to enter our budget preparations for next year all municipalities are struggling to stay within the Governor’s two percent tax cap,” said Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack. “While the Town of Clarkstown has been successful in the past with a zero percent tax increase in 2011 and 2012, we have to continue to look for ways to reduce the cost of Town government. We are in no position to be footing the bill for the maintenance of County roads.”    

"This is part of our effort to mitigate the impact of the county's financial crisis," Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart said."Everybody had to go back and quantify their own county road costs. Fair is fair. It's not an unreasonable appraoch to look and see if you are paying for something that somebody else should be paying for. That's all we're doing."

Clarkstown plans to bill the county for all costs that it was initially billed or paid that are connected with street lights, traffic lights, and fire hydrants adjacent to county roads. The reimbursement sought could include electric supply costs charged by Orange and Rockland Utilities or other energy supply companies, repair costs, and United Water hydrant charges.  The town directed its comptroller to arrange for all future bills from service providers or vendors to be charged directly to the county. 

Additionally, the resolution passed by Clarkstown directs the town attorney to commence appropriate legal action, either individually or with the other four towns of Rockland.

The five Towns have already retained Edward J. Guardaro, Jr. of Kaufman, Borgeest & Ryan, LLP of Westchester County. Guardaro is a municipal land and road use attorney expert, who has handled similar claims for other municipalities including a successful legal action by the Town of Huntington in Suffolk County. 

As the towns pass the resolutions, they are being sent to County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef, County Legislative Chair Harriet Cornell, County Superintendent of Highways Charles Vezzetti and the other town supervisors.

This is the towns' first attempt to charge the county, which is passing along its Board of Elections and costs to the five towns. The county is dealing with a deficit that could reach $95 million.

"It's a shame we got into this position," said Orangetown Councilman Denis Troy. "This is pulling a rabbit out of a hat. It is exactly what they did with the college charge-backs. There is more validity to this than the community college pay back."

Watchdog July 18, 2012 at 10:47 PM
YOu are "right on" about the BLOC and how this transfer of wealth to that segment is destroying our way of life. No one in the press will dare tackle this problem. You must remember however that the BLOC and the Unions vote in solidarity with each other largely for Democratic candidates to do their bidding. Perhaps what the Union receives is on a lot smaller scale, I agree with you there, but the principle is the same, politicians giving out tax dollars in Exchange for votes.
INTHEKNOW July 18, 2012 at 11:13 PM
I think the PBA endorsed borelli and Hoehman, both republicans. But you've never been a stickler for facts.
Watchdog July 19, 2012 at 02:46 AM
Gromack also supported Borelli which shows you what kind of Republican he is. Go there because if his old mans money.
jrod July 20, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Ok..I turned off caps...and you're not telling me anything I dont know. I go to every Legislature mtg and I speak. I know several union employees who lost jobs & everything they own cuz our county gov is irresponsible. Guess what...the free pharmacy is FINALLY going away.. my secret of the day for you! You'll hear it soon. Exec can't find money - God forbid he give up cronies w 6 fig salaries. BTW - the "union" gave back 7 million in concessions - not enough for Exec....(he refuses to agree). There are 9 unions representing the county. Management union & 6 others have yet to give offer. BLOC vote big problem - nobody ever has the guts to address it full force w officials. Cops - overpaid. Sherrifs - duplication of services.. We dont need all those chiefs in New City. But unless residents rise up at meetings...once again - nothing will change. Towns can afford to run their own elections...give me a break...some of their whining is ridiculous. The county portion of your taxes has not been raised in many years. There are 17 Legislators - not 23. Even tho they are all bought & paid for & useless. Our Medicaid costs are the highest in NATION cuz of communities that ARE the BLOC vote. Look at the amt of tax exempt personal propery in that neighborhood. We gave that print out to Carlucci. But he got the BLOC vote too. All I said was - blame game should stop... towns and county shld work in harmony...regardless of who's fault - that is simply the first step toward recovery.
This State is Screwed July 30, 2012 at 12:31 AM
#1 Start VIGOROUSLY prosecuting the BLOC for their blatant welfare, section 8 and food stamp fraud. #2 Stop listening to the whining of the local officials who know nothing. This mess cannot be blamed solely on the County. They better think about how to help the County before they start sending in bills for street lights and fire hydrants. Or maybe just wait and watch the Towns get extra screwed when the County pulls ALL of their funding away. That will be nice.....then there will be no more cushy budgets for crap they don't need anymore....or things they actually need for that matter. #3 Sheriff's (spelled with 1 r and 2 f's) are the lowest paid cops in the County and are not a duplication of service. Town/Village cops cannot do what a Deputy Sheriff can do. Maybe they should just do it all...it works well in Suffolk County.

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