By Ted Waddell
WURTSBORO June 19, 2001 The Village of Wurtsboro Board thinks there are too many 18-wheelers rumbling through town.
But the head of a local gravel pit and the owner of the hauling company that transports the material says the boards on a vendetta to put them out of business.
On Monday night, the Village of Wurtsboro held a public meeting to discuss the draft of Local Law #1 of 2001, an amendment of Local Law #1 of 1999, limiting or prohibiting the operation of trucks, commercial vehicles, tractors, tractor-trailer combinations, tractor-semitrailer combinations or tractor-trailer-semitrailer combinations in excess of ten (10) tons on streets within the Village of Wurtsboro.
According to the draft law, all such vehicles would be prohibited from entering, crossing or traveling upon or along any street or highway [in the village], with the exception of those portions of New York State Route 209 within the boundaries [of the village], except for the purposes of delivery or pick up of merchandise or other property.
The board wants heavy haulers to avoid using Sullivan Street the villages main throughfare as a shortcut, and travel an extra 1 1/2 miles around the populated center of the historic village.
During the public hearing, Mayor Bob Whitehead said the board was concerned about heavy truck traffic endangering the safety of people in the residential area and the cost of repairing roads damaged by large trucks headed up to a gravel quarry owned by Phoenix Gravel Corp. on Wurtsboro Hills Road.
We are hard-pressed to come up with the monies to maintain our infrastructure, said Whitehead. The trucks are pounding the hell out of our infrastructure . . . [and] I have to protect the villages interests.
According to Whitehead, back in the 1950s, five people were incinerated when a truck lost its brakes at the red light and crashed into several passenger cars.
In a heated reply, Gary Tetz, owner of E. Tetz & Sons of Middletown, said an agreement had been worked out earlier with local officials at the town hall whereby his trucks would run empty through the village on their way to the gravel quarry, which is located within the village and the adjacent town.
As things stand now, trucks take Exit 113 off Route 17 to Route 209, make a right turn at the light and proceed 4/10 of a mile through the village to the gravel pit.
The board wants Tetzs trucks along with other big rigs having a total weight in excess of 10 tons to forget about using Sullivan Street as a shortcut and travel an additional 1.5 miles to avoid the center of the village by using Exit 112, going back across the bridge to the gravel quarry site and/or other destinations.
Tetz, Albert H. Schaubhut (president of Phoenix Gravel Corp.) and Tetzs attorney, Michael Blustein, called foul.
Im going to fight this law, said Tetz, as the public hearing heated up.
Schaubhut said when his company bought the property in 1996, it paid the local community more than $90,000 in back taxes. According to Schaubhut, since January 1997, his company has paid about $93,000 in taxes.
Youre trying to put us out of business, he added. If you shut the gravel bank down which is what this legislation is apparently aimed at there wont be anymore [tax] payments, because there wont be anymore revenue. Im telling you I cant pay any more taxes if this shuts us down.
According to Blustein, he likened the proposed law to a knife in the back, adding it was illegal to pass a local law that would discriminate against heavy haulers.
You cannot enact a law that prohibits all commercial traffic through the village, he said.
Mayor Whitehead responded by calling their comments bullying tactics by big money, adding, I have knowledge from the New York State Department of Transportation [DOT] and the New York Congress of Mayors that we are perfectly within our rights to place a weight restriction on our village streets because we are a residential community and we love it the way it is.
The village board (Whitehead and trustees John Klein and Mickey Maher) voted unanimously to adjourn further discussion of the proposed amendment until a work session is held at the village hall at 6 p.m. on June 25.