If it does, the Naples highway chief says it may be time to stop plowing state highways.
Highway Superintendent David Voss told the Town Board last week that the state may impose new emission standards on towns that plow state highways. If it does, he said, the cost to fit Naples trucks with new equipment would equal more than the town gets for plowing the highways.
A state law passed in 2006 requires that 33 percent of the entire statewide fleet of vehicles used to plow state highways be compliant with new emissions reductions standards by the end of 2008. The state Department of Environmental Conservation was charged with coming up with the regulations to make sure that goal could be met, and since January, the DEC has been testing various retrofitting equipment to find out what emissions-reduction methods will be the most efficient and economical.
According to state Department of Transportation spokesperson Carol Breen, the DEC’s plan for vehicle retrofitting requirements — which could apply to state vehicles as well as town-owned vehicles used to plow state highways — has been redrafted and resubmitted and is awaiting Gov. David Paterson’s approval. The details of the requirements as they apply to municipalities will be released at that time, she said.
Breen added that the DOT and DEC understand the towns’ frustration at the unfunded emissions-reduction mandate, and that the agencies would be “working with the municipalities” to find ways to pay for the retrofitting.
Due to the high retrofitting costs, Voss recommended that Naples let the state resume plowing its highways if it adopts the new rule. He added, though, that it’s hard to tell what will happen with the new administration in Albany.
At a meeting of county highway supeintendents last week, the topic of mandated emissions reductions came up — but many of the superintendents had heard different things about the law and weren’t sure if or how soon they would have to make changes to their fleets. Some of the superintendents hadn’t yet heard about the law at all, said Farmington Highway Superintendent Edward McLaughlin.
East Bloomfield’s highway superintendent, Dale Carver, said he couldn’t comment about how the law might affect his fleet because he wasn’t sure if it was being enforced yet.
McLaughlin had learned about the law in a memo he received last week from the Genesee Transportation Council. The memo stated that retrofits to bring vehicles built before 2007 into compliance would cost from $8,000 to $20,000 per vehicle. McLaughlin said the potential “unfunded mandate” made him “scratch (his) head,” wondering where the money might come from to bring Farmington’s fleet into compliance — the town has eight vehicles, none of which are from 2007 or later, and all of which would require the pricey retrofits.
Voss also told the Naples board last Monday night that the winter highway budget for salt, sand and fuel would need to be higher next year.
This year’s winter budget is $120,000. Voss estimates that it will need to increase by at least $20,000 for next year. The department’s fuel bill is currently up by 40 percent per month.
The budget is extremely tight this year, Supervisor Frank Duserick said, because the town replaced several large pieces of equipment in the past year. A large truck had to be replaced at a cost of $200,000 and an excavator and grader at a cost of about $150,000 each. The board raised the tax levy by 25 percent for 2008, largely to cover the costs of the equipment.
Duserick said the town is trying to increase its reserve funds and to evaluate what equipment should be gradually replaced to avoid financial surprises when equipment fails.
Voss recently went to Albany with highway superintendents from across the state to lobby for what he called a one-time $36 million “shot in the arm,” for local highway departments in the next state budget.
The current state budget proposal would include a 2 to 3 percent increase in the state funds normally allotted to towns along with a one-time sum of $9 million to be divided among highway departments.
Daily Messenger reporter Hilary Smith contributed to this report.
Contact Emily McFaul at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 256, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.