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Romaine Seeks Town Board Support To Improve Highway Dept.

Town board members will vote on four resolutions Tuesday to review several proposals that include increasing contractor hourly rates.

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.

lara buscatelli February 23, 2013 at 05:05 AM
Nunzio, look at your tax bills over the past twenty years. Your town taxes have not gone up for eighteen years and there was a two year tax holiday. In the interim population has gone from $100,000 to almost 500,000. Roadways have quadrupled to 2400 miles, if stretched out would reach to Los Angeles.There is something wrong. Then people wonder when their streets take a few days to plow.
lara buscatelli February 23, 2013 at 05:21 AM
Also, I'm confused. I thought only the soon-to-be elected Highway Superintendent has jurisdiction over the highway dept. What is the purpose of a six-point plan for the town board's approval if it can't be implemented by them? It's like a senseless, sense resolution.
Bill L February 23, 2013 at 10:56 AM
Yes, look at your tax bill. Years ago they split the lines on the bill. Yes, town general taxes haven't gone up but everything else has. Our services are being eaten away every year. Now we have to pay for parking at parks which we already pay for in our taxes. Politicians alway find a way to squeeze ,more money out of the taxpayer in fees.This town and past town boards don't want to be the one to raise taxes because they're to concerned about thier re-election.Realistically,every thing goes up in cost,fuel,benefits,electric,etc. If they don't raise taxes to pay for this they cut services, put equipment repairs and improvement project on hold. In the long run the taxpayer will have to pay just as they had to pay after the so called "two year tax holiday" The town uses smoke and mirrors to fool the public but the public is seeing right through these self serving ideas of our elected officials.
lara buscatelli February 23, 2013 at 05:21 PM
“Rhetoric is a poor substitute for action, and we have trusted only to rhetoric. If we are really to be a great nation, we must not merely talk; we must act big.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
Patchogue Snoop February 25, 2013 at 06:48 PM
Mr Romaine...what is your title again? So your proposal is bilk the taxpayer to pay for increased plowing reimbursement rates to cover for another failure by the government ie YOU! Please resign..I am begging you....we can't afford to fill out oil tanks anymore....at least those of us who are not SCPD employees, teachers or bloated govt officials making obscene salaries...not to mention the oh so good pensions and health bennies for life. Life is good on the taxpayer isn't it? Yeah, idiots like me paying for everyone else at the expense of my children. Yes, read my lips...PLEASE RESIGN, you failed...admit it and go.

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