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Towns Plan to Bill County for Road Maintenance

County says they do not have legal authority to charge Rockland for the upkeep of fixtures on county roads within their borders

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 along them.

But the Rockland County Department of Law states town officials 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 had 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 rabbit 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."

Andromachos July 18, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Maybe there is a typo in the article - I hope so. Why does it cost about $900.00 per year to maintain a fire hydrant in Clarkstown ($230,000 divided by 247 hydrants)? Of all the hydrants I see on a regular basis, I do not see anyone working on them, adjusting them or even checking them. When they flush them, once every few years, a truck comes around, opens it, and leaves, then comes back a few hours later and closes it. How is that $900.00 per year? This is not a criticism, it is a question.
Robin Traum (Editor) July 18, 2012 at 11:17 AM
Andromachos The numbers in the article are the same as provided by the town. Here's a link to the press release published by Clarkstown on its web site.http://www.town.clarkstown.ny.us/html/news.asp?id=380
stephany July 18, 2012 at 11:30 AM
http://www.town.clarkstown.ny.us/html/news.asp?id=380
Michael N. Hull July 18, 2012 at 11:31 AM
Councilman Troy in Orangetown is 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. 
Mike Hirsch July 18, 2012 at 01:03 PM
I am thrilled that our local representatives have run out of our money to spend. It is a new experience for them. Maybe they'll finally figure it out that they need to cut their budgets.
Michael N. Hull July 18, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Sorry, Mike, but you are wrong.   They have not run out of money - our taxes will go up - you see 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 03:11 PM
The towns don't just pay for maintenance on the hydrant. They pay for the cost associated with purchasing and installing the hydrant as well as the cost of the water mains which supply the hydrant.
A.Human July 18, 2012 at 03:18 PM
It is up to the Taxpayers to say no and not pay an additional dime. The problem is that most people are inherently weak and will not go against the status quo. Get a couple of thousand people and I'm sure that will change things. After all, these cats are our "elected" officals.
John Taggart July 18, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Who will pay for elections, college charges, now who will pay for roads. Do we have a little war brewing between the towns and the county ? Whether its a town tax or county the property owners pay, Mr. Hull is right....but this is fun to watch, I wonder if they'll start to eat their own.
Watchdog July 18, 2012 at 06:14 PM
This is why it was important not to give in to the police union as Gromack did. Tax money is fungible. We should have stood our ground against the Union. The police are responsible for over 25% of the Town Budget and their salaries and benefits are out of of sight. If residents saw that their taxes went up because of the outlandish demands of the cops, we could have stormed and picketed the police station until these ingrates understood that WE CANNOT TAKE IT ANYMORE. This could still happen unless Chief Sulivan shows some compassion, understanding and leadership. Right now the man is invisible when it comes to the plight of taxpayers especially senior citizens who are being forced to leave because cops are costing us $200,000 each and have 81 days off, effectively working 179 days a year. It is a disgrace but the coos just do not care.
Watchdog July 18, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Time to storm the Bastille? THese clowns just do not get the message. Hey Alex, there is a storm brewing. Better change your strategy....and soon.
John Taggart July 18, 2012 at 07:51 PM
No one should have to pay for that treeless horror known as main street in New City
Mike Hirsch July 18, 2012 at 08:13 PM
We do have a 2 percent state mandated property tax cap. They will have to start trimming their budgets whether they like it or not.
Watchdog July 18, 2012 at 08:32 PM
Ramapo overrode the tax cap and blamed it on the County....exactly what Michael Hull is saying. In fact, if Carkstown did not choose to sue the County, we would pay less since we wouldnot pay the legal fees. You can conclude that Gromack is the culprit here, responsible for the higher taxes.
jrod July 18, 2012 at 09:44 PM
WOW...THE TOWNS ARE GOING AFTER THE COUNTY. ISN'T THAT LIKE GOING AFTER YOUR OWN PARENT?? DOESN'T ANYBODY REALIZE HOW BROKE THE COUNTY AND THE STATE OF NY ACTUALLY ARE?? WHAT WILL THE TOWNS GAIN FROMM THIS BEHAVIOR? WILL IT BENEFIT THE TAX PAYING CITIZENS IN THE LONG RUN?? AREN'T WE ALL IN THE SAME BOAT FINANCIALLY LIVING HERE - REGARDLESS OF WHICH TOWN?? OH WAIT - THE TOWN EMPLOYEES ALL GOT RAISES - WHILE COUNTY EMPLOYEES WERE LAID OFF. AND THE COUNTY GOV RAISED OUR TAXES AND SURCHARGED OUR UTILITY BILL AND IMPOSED FEES FOR CAR REGISTRATION ETC... IT ALL TRICKLES DOWN HILL...AND EVENTUALLY THERE WILL BE NOTHING TO FIGHT OVER. BANKRUPTCY IS LOOMING AND NOBODY IS WORKING TOGETHER. POLITICL POSTURING. NICE TO SEE CARLUCCI IN THE PHOTO THIS TIME...THEY ALL NEED TO JUST STOP IT.
INTHEKNOW July 18, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Firstly, turn off the caps. It doesn't make your words any more emphatic, just harder to read. The towns are going after the county because unlike the county, the towns operate within a budget, cut costs, and are making cuts. The county has done no such thing, and just keeps raising taxes. Clarkstown has cut taxes or held the line, but the county has raised them in obvious and not so obvious ways.. (cell phone tax / heating fuel tax / cell phone tax / title transfer tax / new hotel tax etc) The county ran fine with the board of supervisors until the 1980's, when the county exec position was created.. it has grown every year since... Do we really need 23 legislatures, staff, etc... The towns have tightened their belts, and the county is trying to pretend to do so by transferring costs. Why should Gromack/Stewart etc struggle to hold the line so Vandy can just break their budgets by playing games? Keep blaming the cops, teachers , highway workers etc for the tax problem, while forgetting all the money that Ilion shuttles to his bloc vote..... Take a look at the money spent on welfare and social services... you could pay the cops a million a year each and it would dwarf the money thrown at the bloc,.
Watchdog July 18, 2012 at 10:47 PM
YOu are "right on" about the BLOC and how this transfer of wealth to that segment is destroying our way of life. No one in the press will dare tackle this problem. You must remember however that the BLOC and the Unions vote in solidarity with each other largely for Democratic candidates to do their bidding. Perhaps what the Union receives is on a lot smaller scale, I agree with you there, but the principle is the same, politicians giving out tax dollars in Exchange for votes.
INTHEKNOW July 18, 2012 at 11:13 PM
I think the PBA endorsed borelli and Hoehman, both republicans. But you've never been a stickler for facts.
Watchdog July 19, 2012 at 02:46 AM
Gromack also supported Borelli which shows you what kind of Republican he is. Go there because if his old mans money.
jrod July 20, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Ok..I turned off caps...and you're not telling me anything I dont know. I go to every Legislature mtg and I speak. I know several union employees who lost jobs & everything they own cuz our county gov is irresponsible. Guess what...the free pharmacy is FINALLY going away.. my secret of the day for you! You'll hear it soon. Exec can't find money - God forbid he give up cronies w 6 fig salaries. BTW - the "union" gave back 7 million in concessions - not enough for Exec....(he refuses to agree). There are 9 unions representing the county. Management union & 6 others have yet to give offer. BLOC vote big problem - nobody ever has the guts to address it full force w officials. Cops - overpaid. Sherrifs - duplication of services.. We dont need all those chiefs in New City. But unless residents rise up at meetings...once again - nothing will change. Towns can afford to run their own elections...give me a break...some of their whining is ridiculous. The county portion of your taxes has not been raised in many years. There are 17 Legislators - not 23. Even tho they are all bought & paid for & useless. Our Medicaid costs are the highest in NATION cuz of communities that ARE the BLOC vote. Look at the amt of tax exempt personal propery in that neighborhood. We gave that print out to Carlucci. But he got the BLOC vote too. All I said was - blame game should stop... towns and county shld work in harmony...regardless of who's fault - that is simply the first step toward recovery.
This State is Screwed July 30, 2012 at 12:31 AM
#1 Start VIGOROUSLY prosecuting the BLOC for their blatant welfare, section 8 and food stamp fraud. #2 Stop listening to the whining of the local officials who know nothing. This mess cannot be blamed solely on the County. They better think about how to help the County before they start sending in bills for street lights and fire hydrants. Or maybe just wait and watch the Towns get extra screwed when the County pulls ALL of their funding away. That will be nice.....then there will be no more cushy budgets for crap they don't need anymore....or things they actually need for that matter. #3 Sheriff's (spelled with 1 r and 2 f's) are the lowest paid cops in the County and are not a duplication of service. Town/Village cops cannot do what a Deputy Sheriff can do. Maybe they should just do it all...it works well in Suffolk County.

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