Brookhaven Looks To Improve Highway Department

Town board approves proposals from supervisor, but two Democrats speak out against raising fees for outside contractors.

With Brookhaven’s recent poor snow removal efforts still a discussion point for many, the town board on Tuesday approved several proposals officials said should help avoid the numerous problems seen in response to the Feb. blizzard.

Put forth by Supervisor Ed Romaine, the town board unanimously approved four proposals designed to improve Brookhaven’s beleaguered Highway Department:

• hiring an outside firm to inventory and evaluate all Highway Department equipment and vehicles

• ordering the town attorney to re-evaluate outside contractor insurance requirements

• training highway employees on software to use 451-TOWN to make maps of residents' plowing, drainage and roadway complaints

• installing GPS in town vehicles for tracking and communication

Romaine’s proposal to raise the hourly rates Brookhaven pays to outside contractors was a bit more controversial. Councilwomen Kathy Walsh and Connie Kepert along with Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld unsuccessfully attempted to table this motion.

"I think we really need to look at what went wrong during the storm rather than rushing to judgment. What I think we are doing is rushing to judgment," said Kepert.

Wally Greene, president of Brookhaven's highway department, spoke against outside snowplow rates being raised, noting that his union gave concessions this year going without raises as part of an effort to help the town save money.

"That money should be used to build up this department and the equipment we need to move snow," Greene said. 

Kepert, as the board's highway liaison, renewed her call for a "fact-finding" of what went wrong during the cleanup of the Feb. 8 blizzard. The councilwoman said she wasn't even sure all outside contractors called in actually reported to the town. 

But Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico called the move to not raise rates “the most foolish thing to do.”

“Who ever votes against this should move out of this town,” he said.

After failing to get the votes to table the measure, town board members approved raising rates to as much as $250 per hour by a vote of 5-0-2 with Kepert and Fiore-Rosenfeld abstaining.


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