County urged to use local funds for some bridge, culvert projects

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 August 2022 at 2:05 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers: Traffic passes over a culvert on Taylor Hill Road in Ridgeway by the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds.

ALBION – Orleans County legislators were urged by the county’s Department of Public Works commissioner to set aside local funds for bridge and culvert projects.

John Papponetti, the DPW commissioner, said there isn’t enough funding from the state and federal governments for the county to keep up with aging and deteriorating infrastructure.

He cited a culvert on Taylor Hill Road in Ridgeway as an example. The country twice tried for state funding through the Bridge NY program but didn’t get it.

The culvert’s condition has only worsened in that time, Papponetti said. He urged legislators to plan on doing one culvert a year with local dollars and not wait for state or federal aid.

He would like the Taylor Hill Road culvert to be replaced next year, so it either opens right before the fair in late July or with construction starting after the fair.

“We can’t always get federal and state revenue,” he said.

The culvert by the fairgrounds is deteriorating and is scheduled to be replaced next year.

The county owns 68 bridges, about 80 large-diameter culverts and about 200 lane miles of roads, Papponetti said.

The county DPW can do smaller pipe culverts in house, he said. But larger culverts, about 12 to 20 feet, should be bid out for a contractor and those projects can be about $750,000.

He advocated for legislators to set aside local funds for the culverts and bridges, money that can be accessed without all the red tape needed for state and federal funds.

The local funds would help the county DPW keep up with the needed maintenance and repairs of the infrastructure. Papponetti said he doesn’t want to see culverts or bridges closed due to deficiencies and unsafe conditions.

“We need to continue to invest and move forward,” he told county legislators during a meeting on July 27. “I know you have a fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers to make sure we’re spending our money wisely.”

Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson said the Legislature wants to make funding available for the infrastructure work. That is the main reason why the county opted not to suspend the local share of sales tax on gas. Some counties decided to do that after the price hit $2 or $3. The state has suspended its 4 percent sales tax share on gas for the remainder of 2022.

“That is why we talked at length about capping sales tax on gas,” Johnson said. “We thought it much better to use for infrastructure.”

The Legislature on July 27 approved the engineering and design for the Taylor Hill Road culvert, with $76,000 from the infrastructure reserve to be paid to Ravi Engineering & Land Surveying P.C. in Rochester.