Sullivan County Democrat
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Democrat Photo by Rob Potter

DUE TO THE severe winter weather that damaged many town roads and the fact that crews are still busy repairing some of those roads, motorists may see more potholes like this one.

Roadwork Increases For
Busy Highway Depts.

By Rob Potter
SULLIVAN COUNTY — May 22, 2001 – Thanks to Mother Nature, area motorists have some more potholes and bumps to avoid along the local roadways this spring.
The combination of the long, snowy winter and the torrential rainstorm that hit back on December 17 have taken a toll on numerous roads within Sullivan County’s borders. Many town highway superintendents have already dedicated a great deal of time and money to repairing the damage left behind by that winter weather mix of the aforementioned rain, as well as heavy amounts of snow and ice. As a result, spring maintainance schedules – and budgets – have suffered.
“It’s been a hectic year,” said Town of Rockland Highway Superintendent Bowman G. Owen. “There are a lot of potholes we haven’t got to because we were doing work on roads that didn’t have shoulders on them. We’re very behind in what we should be doing.”
Rockland was one of the hardest hit areas by the December rainfall and subsequent flooding. Owen noted that he and his crews will be “repairing damage all summer long” because of that fact.
“That caused over $100,000 in damage, and the winter [maintainance] put us another $20,000 over budget,” Owen said.
Owen’s woes are shared by other highway superintendents around the county, including Town of Liberty Superintendent Tim Pellam and Town of Neversink Superintendent Gary VanValkenburg.
“There has been a substantial cost,” Pellam commented. “And the damage is affecting quite a few roads.”
“Some dirt roads were washed out, especially in the Willowemoc area,” VanValkenburg said. “It has slowed us down in terms of getting other work done.”
Town of Bethel Highway Superintendent Dick Yeomans knows how Owen, Pellam and VanValkenburg feel.
“We had 12 roads and three bridges damaged then,” Yeomans said of the December flooding. “All winter, I tried to get to those areas when I could.”
He has even sent a letter to local politicians, including Senator John Bonacic and Assemblyman Jake Gunther as well as the Sullivan County Legislature, outlining how devastating the winter weather was to the town’s roadways.
“The Town of Bethel at the time of the flood on Dec. 17 had damage to roads and bridges in excess of $180,000,” Yeomans wrote in the letter.
He also notes that requests to the Federal Emergency Managment Agency (FEMA) on behalf of the affected towns and the county were denied.
“Local towns and villages account for about 85 percent of the traveled highways in our state,” Yeomans penned in his correspondence. “Our town property owners cannot afford tax increases.”
One way to finance the needed repairs, Yeomans notes in his letter, would be for the state to increase the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPs) funding to counties and towns. Considering the damaged roads and the “increased cost of petroleum-based products that has occurred in the past year,” Yeomans proposes a CHIPs increase of at least 20 percent.
Yeomans is hopeful the requests in his letter will be considered.
“I’m asking them for their support in this matter and thank them for their past support,” Yeomans said of the elected officials to whom he mailed his letter.
Things are slightly better at the county level, however. Sullivan County Public Works Commissioner Peter Lilholt noted that, while the FEMA denial was disappointing, the county has moved forward.
“Most of the repairs have been made,” said Lilholt of county roads damaged by the December flooding. “We’re trying to improve roads that are going to be [fully] repaired this summer.”
In the meantime, Lilholt said county crews are busy with their normal springtime maintenance. Among that work is patching potholes and sweeping streets.
“We’re glad to be out of winter,” Lilholt said.

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