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Orangetown Resolution Would Bill County For Road Maintenance And Utilities

Clarkstown has already passed a resolution similar to the one the Orangetown Council discussed at Tuesday's workshop meeting.

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 on them. The Rockland County Department of Law states they 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 ahd 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 rabit 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."

Michael N. Hull July 18, 2012 at 11:39 AM
Councilman Troy may be good at pulling "rabbits out of a hat".  But all of this is more like "smoke and mirrors" to me. At the end of the day "follow the money".   Who pays the bill?  Does the taxpayer care whether rabbit A or rabbit B asks them to send a check which gets bigger every year. I would suggest that all of you stop with the CYA public pronouncements, sit down in a room together (County and Towns) and do what you were elected to do i.e. solve problems and quit whining about them to the rest of us.  All we get to do is to pay for your collective ineptitude. It's time for you lot to "put up" or "shut up".  Passing the buck and pointing the finger of blame doesn't get you out of this mess collectively. When the Towns can't even deal with their own PBAs in contract negotiations then I say you need to enter the "shut up" mode.  http://newcity.patch.com/blog_posts/borellis-brawls
John Roache July 18, 2012 at 12:16 PM
Charles Vezzetti- husband of Ruth Vezzitti, Orangetown Republican Committeewomen Ruth Vezzetti Scott Vanderhoff lives in Blauvelt, could not care less. An absolute boob. Friend of CJ Miller, the women who gets raises while others get laid off. Vinny Reda- Rockland County Republican Chairman. The puppet master. The man behind the curtain. Alleged coat thief, connasuer of fine wigs. Although he does not hold office, played a big part in this mess. Despised in his own party. Town of Ramapo, the Cult/Block Vote & Chris St. Lawrence: the Evil Empire!!!! This combination will destroy Rockland and drag the other towns don with it. Must be stopped. Denis Troy, actually does care. Longest serving town board member. Known as combative but not afraid to speak his mind. stuck with RPC mess. In an unenviable position. Stay Tuned
John R. July 18, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Check your state laws regarding responsibilities of county and town regarding items like lighting and hydrants. Some opinions appear below: Attorney General Opinion 81-78. Highway Law, §§ 327, 328; Town Law, § 64(19) and (22), Articles 12, 12-A. A county may terminate the lighting of public highways without advance notice to towns. Towns may provide lighting on public highways as a general town charge. There is no duty for a town or county to provide lighting on public highways. Comptroller Opinion 80-251. Town Law, § 32(1); Municipal Home Rule Law, § 10(l)(ii)(a)(1). A town board may, by local law, establish a department of public works to be headed by the town superintendent of highways, and assign him the responsibility of supervising the town dump, town highways, and town water and sewer districts, provided that there is no impairment of, or interference with, his statutory duties as superintendent.
Michael N. Hull July 18, 2012 at 01:19 PM
John, who cares?   This is about the politicians need for money .... taxes are going up .... taxpayers are an infinite source of the money supply to these people. Because your taxes will go up our representatives are setting out their election manifestos which will state:  "I didn't raise your taxes, they did!" That is why we read: "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." Who is paying for the Westchester lawyers?  The taxpayers.  What are we paying them for?  To tell the pols which one of them has to send us the tax bill!  Who will pay the tax bill? ........ Need I go on?
CR July 18, 2012 at 03:15 PM
M Hull you are 100% correct. How do the taxpayers benefit from shifting the payment of these services from the Towns to the County? Not at all.

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