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Town Board Grants Funding to Bethel Highway Department

By Dan Hust
KAUNEONGA LAKE — October 19, 2007 — While some residents said they were actually willing to go back to dirt roads, Bethel Highway Superintendent Bernie Cohen got enough money Thursday night, Oct. 11, to finish out the end of the year.
But he didn’t get anywhere near enough to do all that he had proposed to the town board in September.
Of the $219,000 he initially requested from the general fund to cover pending shortfalls in the highway department’s budget, Cohen got $50,000 to purchase a truck chassis and oil for cold patching.
The board also agreed to bond $275,000, part of which would pay for a roller, truck, and dump body & sander (to put on the chassis).
But the nine roads on his list of paving (not counting Dr. Duggan in Bethel, which Cohen said he forgot to add) won’t see any work before winter.
Councilman Dan Sturm didn’t care for that arrangement – arguing that the $25,000 approved to fix the town hall’s parking lot would have been better spent on roads.
But the board unanimously agreed – minus absent Councilman Dick Crumley – it was all the general fund could afford.
After the meeting, Cohen thanked councilmen Sturm, Bob Blais and Andy LaPolt for their support, but he lambasted Supervisor Harold Russell for peddling “a bunch of bull.”
The two have been on opposite sides at recent meetings, with Cohen blaming Russell for not giving him enough money to work with and Russell blaming Cohen for not properly overseeing expenditures and planning ahead.
But they may indeed work together later this month when the board meets to work on the 2008 budget – as Cohen’s been invited. It’s the first time anyone can remember a highway superintendent being asked to be in on budget development, even though the highway fund comprises more than half of the township’s expenditures.
Blais pointed out that two successive floods had wiped out the highway and general funds of years past.
“We’re still clawing out of that hole,” he said.
However, LaPolt grimly noted, no matter what happens, “we don’t have the tax base in the Town of Bethel that’s going to support 165 miles of road.”
The highway department will get a fresh infusion of yearlong funds in January. In the meantime, Russell assured the crowd that Bethel has enough sand and salt to last through at least two serious snowstorms.

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