JOHNSTOWN - The Fulton County Highway Department plans to continue plowing county-owned roads in Broadalbin next year, saving the county a $75,000 annual expenditure but costing the town revenue it had counted on for more than 20 years.
County Superintendent of Highways and Facilities Mark Yost told the county supervisors' Buildings & Grounds Committee last week that the county's decision to resume plowing about 15 miles of county highways in Broadalbin this year has worked out seamlessly, and even with equipment and personnel costs, the county likely will see some savings by the end of the season.
For more than 20 years, the county paid the town to plow about 15 miles of county-owned roads, including County Highway 110, a seven-mile stretch of roadway connecting the village of Broadalbin with the Great Sacandaga Lake, near the Saratoga County line.
The county pays about $5,000 per mile, which works out to just under $75,000 in Broadalbin - enough to nearly offset the salaries paid to two of the four Highway Department laborers. Town Supervisor Joe DiGiacomo said the town used the county money to pay for its salt supply.
The county canceled the contract in October after town Highway Superintendent Lance Winney told Yost in a memo that his commitment to plowing county roads might be challenged in the event of a hard winter. Winney later said he had safety concerns about plowing the roads, and he believed the town would save money because it wouldn't be spending as much on overtime or sand, as well as the reduction in wear and tear on equipment.
Before writing the memo, Winney had been engaged with several public battles - both with his employees, who he thought were performing their duties inadequately, and with DiGiacomo and some Town Board members. He also spent the early part of the year withstanding residents' complaints about road conditions at Town Board meetings.
Yost said the additional 15 miles of plowing doesn't pose any problems for his department because he split the workload among plowing crews already in eastern Fulton County. "We just added a few miles to each route - it's just a little further [east] out there," York told supervisors.
Yost said the potential savings for the county can't yet be calculated, but even with heavy snowfall this winter, he doesn't expect the county to incur $75,000 in personnel, equipment and salt costs.
Even if the savings are significant, Yost said, the county doesn't plan to take away the contracts in place in other towns and resume plowing county roads. "We're expanded as much as we can," he said.
DiGiacomo said Winney's projected savings haven't amounted to "anything appreciable." Winney did not return phone messages seeking comment left at the Town Barn and on his cellphone.
"I don't know if I'm seeing any savings on the town side. We may use less material, but other than that, I don't see any decline in hours or wear and tear," said DiGiacomo, who noted he hasn't received any complaints about the county's plowing through town.
Yost told the committee he's received several compliments on the road conditions.
"It's night and day," said County Administrative Officer Jon Stead, who travels the length of County Highway 110 through the town daily. "It's literally that much better."