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Legislator Criticizes Towns’ Attempt to Charge Road Costs to County

Schoenberger wants to investigate feasibility of returning county roads to the towns

Rockland County Legislator Ilan Schoenberger has criticized the announcement by Rockland’s five towns that they plan to bill the county for the .

Schoenberger requested a written opinion from legislative counsel on the legality of the towns’ proposal to charge the county for the cost of maintenance and operation of streetlights, traffic signals and hydrants on county roads. 

“They’re made up charges because there is no statutory authorization for these charges,” he said.

Schoenberger went one step further and asked for an opinion from the administration and legal counsel on the feasibility of returning the county roads to the towns.

“First I think there is no legal authority to what they’re asking for,” he said. “Secondly if they want a fight, they’re going to get a fight.”

Schoenberger said the roads were originally under the authority of the towns but the responsibility was moved to the county years ago.

“These were all at one time town roads,” he said. “All it took was an amendment to the county map.”

Schoenberger explained when the board of town supervisors was in place, its members wanted the county to assume the responsibility of roads that were difficult to maintain or snowplow. That took place over a long period of time beginning in the 1800s with most transfers taking place between the mid 1940s and 1970s. No roads have been transferred for at least the past 19 years.

Schoenberger, who served as county attorney for more than 10 years, said, “In all the years I have been in county government it was always my understanding that placing town roads on the county’s official map was an action that was undertaken to help the towns reduce the cost and expense for the paving, maintenance and repair of major roads that went through the towns.  In other words, the placing of a road on the county’s official map and thereby calling it a “county road” was being done to help the towns reduce costs and expenses.”

Schoenberger, who is chair of the legislature’s Budget & Finance Committee, said Rockland saves the towns millions of dollars by having the roads on the county map.

County Highway Superintendent Charles “Skip” Vezzetti said there are 170 miles of county roads.

“We have about 43 miles of road in Clarkstown,” he said. “We have 18 miles in Haverstraw. Orangtown has about 35 miles. Ramapo has 48 miles. Stony Point has 23 miles.”

Vezzetti agreed with Schoenberger that the towns’ proposed chargebacks were not realistic.

“None of those items are highway charges, so it wouldn’t affect us,” Vezzetti said. “Streetlights are a local option. Streetlights are not a highway charge.”

Vezzetti stated fire hydrants are not a function of the roadway, they are requested individually by fire districts. He said traffic signals are town property and the towns own them.  He stated the installation and expense of operating the utilities is a general fund expense not a highway fund charge.

According to Schoenberger, the process to remove the roads from the county’s official map and return them to the towns’ jurisdiction would take about six months. It would require introduction of a local law and referral of that measure to several review agencies, including the towns. It would also need a majority vote of the legislature.

“If the County chooses this option,” added Schoenberger, “then there would no longer be any issue from the towns regarding the payment for maintenance, utilities or fire hydrants or other costs associated with “county roads” for they no longer will be “county roads”, but will be returned back to the towns, and would be “town roads” just as they were before.”

Schoenberger also requested an analysis from the county’s commissioner of finance and Vezzetti of how much county roads cost Rockland County taxpayers on an annual basis and how much would be saved if the roads were no longer “county roads.”

Schoenberger said the towns’ move, which was announced on Tuesday by Clarkstown, is a reaction to the county’s decision to pass along the expenses of elections and costs. He said the county is legally permitted to to the towns.  Rockland wants to transfer those costs as part of its efforts to deal with a possible $95 million budget deficit.

amy durbin July 19, 2012 at 09:48 AM
Why do we need County Government?
Think4urself July 19, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Without County Government, Rockland would of never won the the dubious achievement award of being the worst rated county in New York State!
Walt July 19, 2012 at 11:53 AM
RC needs their county government to subsidize TOR (Transport of Rockland) with taxpayer money and also fund crucial Monsey based initiatives.
Tom July 19, 2012 at 11:54 AM
The stupidity here is that our under-performing public servants are debating "who" pays for infrastructure, when in reality it is not the town or the county...it's us! Town tax assessment, county tax, state tax, federal tax...we pay it all. Why don't they just do their jobs and stop wasting our money elsewhere so that the essentials can be paid for. I won't pretend to know where to cut, that's why we have elected officials and representative government, but I'm sitting in my office right now cutting my department budget because I don't have the option to blame someone else or borrow from next year.
Mary July 19, 2012 at 11:59 AM
County Highway Superintendent Charles “Skip” Vezzetti...is his wife, Ruth Vezzetti, the Chairwoman of the Orangetown Republican Committee?
Matt Foley July 19, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Gee, if the County gives back all the "County" roads to the Towns, then what will the County Highway Department have to do? Look at all those jobs they could cut, no more equipment to buy, no more salt and supplies to purchase? Ilan may be on to something. Just getting rid of more duplication of services.
John Roache July 19, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Yes Mary, he is.
Michael N. Hull July 19, 2012 at 12:51 PM
This is what happens when political gurus, patronage pleaders, try to act like they have a knowledge of economics.  It becomes 'shame' and 'rabbits' "It's a shame" said Orangetown Councilman Troy. "This is pulling a rabbit out of a hat.  Livin in 'Alice in Wonderland' one 'white rabbit' ran to Albany and now runs to the legal books saying if the other 'white rabbits' "want a fight, they’re going to get a fight.” The jokes are better than in Alice's world!   Take this one: "Schoenberger requested an analysis of how much county roads cost taxpayers and how much would be saved if the roads were no longer county roads." "Cost" refers to taxpayers - "Saved" refers to County and Town politicians. Who pays?  Does the taxpayer care whether rabbit A or rabbit B sends the inflated bill? This is not about economics it's about re-election.  The politicians are not fixing the problem - they are fixing the blame.   At election time the mantra will be.  "I didn't raise your taxes - they did!" Meanwhile they whine to cover their ineptitude.  The Towns are as bad as the County.  They have their own 'jokes'.  They blame "arbitration" for the fact that they can't control police and pension costs which are a major chunk of our taxes http://newcity.patch.com/blog_posts/the-joke-is-on-you and they even in-fight among themselves as who should be paid what. http://newcity.patch.com/blog_posts/borellis-brawls Tell your friends, a pox on both their houses!
John Roache July 19, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Has anyone seen or heard from John Murphy? He is our legislator still, right? I believe his catchphrase is "No one has done more for Orangetown". Really.
Mike Hirsch July 19, 2012 at 01:06 PM
I love this stuff. Career politicians blaming each other for the mess they've created.
John Roache July 19, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Matt, you may be right about the Highway Dept. buy your taxes will not be going down. The Monsey based iniative will swollow up any money you save on the Highway Dept. If each family in Monsey has 6 kids and those kids get married at 18 and have 6 kids, well do the math. It is only going to get worse. They bleed the county social services dry right now. Fast foward 10 or 15 years when their population is %20 more than it is now. You will be paying more to support them . The block vote dictates this county. Plain and simple. And that is NOT anti-semitism, just facts.
Watchdog July 19, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Tanks John, I have bee saying that for quite some time. They have a real talent to squeeze public money out of politicians. Vinny Reda assisted them in getting $18 million for RABBINICAL STUDIES? http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/nyregion/31tuition.html Long Isand is also pretty good at this with $160 million in reimbursements for Yeshivas. Rockland County is DOOMED if we do not do something about these politicians, INCLUDING THE RINOS!!!. ESOECIALLY THE RINOS LIKE VINNY REDA http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/Harvey-Weisenberg/story/48234/
John Taggart July 19, 2012 at 02:04 PM
If the county gets rid of its highway department the towns will have to fill the hole. there is still going to be the same amount of roads to maintain. Mabye some savings on unneeded buildings and supervisors, but your probably going to need most or all of the workers an equipment. Seems like they'er just switching the same money back and forth. Alot of redundancy between what was the Board of Town Supervisors and the County Govt....please choose one.
LesDoIt July 19, 2012 at 10:05 PM
The insanity of the County Highway Department is clearly on display durring snow storms. You see them plow one street pickup the plow drive over snow filled town roads only to put there plow down again a half a mile away where the next county road starts. Mr Schoenberger may have come up with his first good proposal with the abolishmnet of the County Highway Department.
jrod July 20, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Awesome
Mike July 20, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Why stop at the highway dept? Time to put everything back to 5 towns. Recall the County Legislature and disband it- we don't need it.
jrod July 20, 2012 at 01:21 AM
You said what I was thinking. They run our tax dollars like a Ponzi scheme. Only they dont go to jail. They'll probably now have to hire a consultant to the consultant to figure it out - and another firm to make the decision for them.
jrod July 20, 2012 at 01:25 AM
Yeah but the towns will hire more people - and raise your taxes. What a circus.
jrod July 20, 2012 at 01:26 AM
Isn't everybody in cushy county positions related to some kind of politician or cop or something?
jrod July 20, 2012 at 01:29 AM
He's been there too long. And Ilan is there what....40 years now. Really? He is a very intelligent man...but I think it's time for a change. No really - go to some of their meetings. I can't even believe it sometimes.
jrod July 20, 2012 at 01:37 AM
You're right John. Except it's usually more than 6 kids. And the landlords are sometimes corporations owned by people on services. So they collect rent - and public assistance. This has been going on for a very very long time. The former Commish of Social Services was a member of that community - and if a worker tried to deny a case - the commish would reverse the decision. It's not anti-semitism at all - but it's an unfortunate statistical reality. Public record also shows a very high proportion of tax exempt personal property in this community. There is a reason why Rockland and Orange Counties have the highest medicaid costs in the NATION.
jrod July 20, 2012 at 01:45 AM
If you look at the Legislature agendas in Albany - there are so many bills being brought to the table - requests made by this particular community - and every single one of the bills are being presented by Carlucci. He refused to help out middle class - & low paid county workers who were losing their jobs and their homes - but he brings a multitude of requests from a community that is draining our tax dollars? No - he wont raise taxes...but he'll make sure he gets the vote at all costs. Hypocritical.
Jody Fox July 20, 2012 at 03:22 PM
So that Legislators can use their position to vote themselves and county workers, (many family appointees) free health care after 10 years service (?) and free prescriptions if you pick it up at the health center on Sanitorium Road. Probably done because the marvelous way they have handled the budget over the years. No other County in New York State provides as many free benefits at the expense of the taxpayer.

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