07/01/15 8:30am
07/01/2015 8:30 AM
Tree limbs hang on a house on Wilson Avenue in Riverhead. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

Tree limbs hang on a house on Wilson Avenue in Riverhead. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

An early morning string of thunderstorm toppled trees and knocked out power for more than 3,000 residents in Riverhead and Flanders Wednesday.

According to a PSEG outage map, about 2,500 customers in Jamesport and 555 residents in Flanders lost power due to the storm. As of 8:30 a.m., power had been restored to most of the Jamesport properties around Tuthill Lane, according to the map.  (more…)

04/03/15 10:00am
04/03/2015 10:00 AM
A Riverhead highway crew begins patching up potholes along Sound Avenue Wednesday morning. The workers said this year is the worst they can remember. (Credit: Paul Squire)

A Riverhead highway crew begins patching potholes along Sound Avenue Wednesday morning. The workers said this year is the worst they can remember. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Hopefully, the suspension of your car is ready this spring because 2015 is shaping up to be the worst year for potholes in a long time.

“It’s twice as bad as I’ve ever seen it,” said Riverhead Highway Superintendent George “Gio” Woodson.

The town’s employees are scrambling to fill in potholes — large and small and numbering up to 5,000 — across town that were cratered in a snowy and frigid February, according to Mr. Woodson.

The crews are focusing on main roads first, moving to secondary roads and then finally streets in housing developments. (more…)

01/28/15 9:26am
01/28/2015 9:26 AM
Highway crews clear snow near Hulse Landing Road and Route 25A in Wading River Wednesday morning. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

Highway crews clear snow near Hulse Landing Road and Route 25A in Wading River Wednesday morning. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

Lingering flurries from Tuesday’s blizzard left a dusting of snow on Riverhead roadways Wednesday morning.

But, the dusting of less than an inch of snow didn’t phase the Riverhead Town Highway Department, Superintendent Gio Woodson said. (more…)

11/27/14 4:00pm
11/27/2014 4:00 PM
Manuel Canel (left) of Canel Landscaping of Riverhead cleans up leaves in a client's yard in Aquebogue earlier this month with his crew, Jose Canel (center) and Victor Garcia (right). (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Manuel Canel (left) of Canel Landscaping of Riverhead cleans up leaves in a client’s yard in Aquebogue earlier this month with his crew, Jose Canel (center) and Victor Garcia (right). (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Riverhead highway workers will begin picking up loose leaves in front of homes on Monday, Dec. 1, for residents living in the eastern portion of the town, stretching from Laurel Lane on the east to Northville Turnpike, said Highway Superintendent George Woodson.

The department plans to spend three weeks picking up loose leaves, starting east and heading west.

Pickups in the center portion of town, from Northville Turnpike to Hulse Landing Road, will start Monday, Dec.8, followed by the western part of town, from Hulse Landing Road to the Brookhaven line, on Monday, Dec. 15.

Unfortunately, the free biodegradable paper bags the highway department was giving out are all gone, Mr. Woodson said. (more…)

10/02/14 5:12pm
10/02/2014 5:12 PM
  (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

East Street in Jamesport, a private road. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

To plow or not to plow?

That was the question this morning, as Supervisor Sean Walter and Highway Superintendent George Woodson went toe-to-toe in an argument over whether or not the town highway department should be plowing private roads.

June Bassemir, who lives in the private community of Waterview Terrace in Jamesport, came to Town Hall to complain at the beginning of Thursday’s work session to bring the issue to the Town Board’s attention. She said she had heard about Mr. Woodson’s intentions to stop plowing private roads a few months ago from a highway department employee.

Before the meeting had even started, Mr. Walter jumped right in.

“It’s unacceptable for him to be doing this, and the residents should stand up and protest against the highway superintendent,” he told Ms. Bassemir. He said a Wading River resident told him that the policy of not plowing private roads cost her a real estate sale, because Fannie Mae has a provision that it will not loan money for property that doesn’t have a road maintenance agreement.

The supervisor also said that Mr. Woodson was sending out a letter regarding the new policy.

“Pursuant to New York State Law,” the letter from Mr. Woodson states, “the town, inclusive of the highway department, may not use town personnel and equipment to maintain or repair private roadways, remove trees and brush, plow snow from private roads etc., except in the event of an emergency such as a serious illness or fire.”

“I asked him not to send it out,” Mr. Walter told Ms. Bassemir, saying it shows “total disrespect.”

“I’ll say it on the record,” he said. “You should be picketing the highway superintendent.”

Mr. Woodson was not in the room at the time but apparently caught wind of the supervisor’s statements and showed up later in the meeting.

Click here for our live coverage from Thursday’s meeting.

“Are you actually telling people to protest the highway department?” Mr. Woodson asked. “[Plowing private roads] is against the law.”

In an interview later on Thursday, Mr. Woodson said that he had been approached by residents living on some private roads in town — he did not want to specify which ones — who threatened to sue the town if it didn’t pave the private roads they said were damaged by town plows.private road fight[1]

The highway department never plowed private roads before his predecessor, Mark Kwasna, unless there was more than six inches of snow, Mr. Woodson said.

In 2004, the Town Board accepted 75 private roads into the town road system following a public hearing. Mr. Kwasna, who was highway superintendent, said at the time that many of those roads had been maintained by the town for 20 to 30 years.

“If we’ve been maintaining them, we’re basically taking on the liability anyway,” Mr. Kwasna said in 2004.

Mr. Woodson said Thursday that Riverhead is the only town in the county that plows private roads regularly.

Locally, Southold does not plow private roads, and Southampton does, but only when the supervisor declares a town wide emergency, officials from those towns told The News-Review.

Mr. Walter said he worked with Mr. Kwasna on legislation to allow some private roads in the town to be plowed. He feels the town could face a lawsuit if it stops plowing a road it has plowed for more than 10 years, even if it is a private road.

“If we’ve been plowing the roads for 10 years and now we’re going to stop, what do you say to those residents?” Mr. Walter said. “It’s basic constituent service.”

Mr. Woodson said he has met with civic associations and homeowners groups from the private roads to explain his position.

Rich Stephenson, the president of the Waterview Terrace Civic Association, which has private roads, says the town has been plowing those streets for 30 years. He said he has met with Mr. Woodson and town attorney Bob Kozakiewicz on the issue.

He said losing that service would be a large financial burden on residents there, many of whom are senior citizens, if they had to hire a private contractor or buy their own plow — and it could be worse for streets that do not have a civic association.

But most importantly, he said, “We need to know immediately what the town is going to do. There’s no time to sit on the fence.”

According to Mr. Kozakiewicz, the state constitution prevents towns from using tax money on private streets. However, another section of state law allows a road that has been maintained for 10 years or more to be accepted into the road system of that municipality.

Officials say one upstate town has divided its roads into three different categories, each of which is permitted a certain degree of town services. Riverhead officials say they may consider something like that.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Mr. Walter worked with Mr. Kwasna on legislation that would allow some private roads to be paved. He worked to write legislation that would permit private roads to be plowed.

02/12/14 12:33pm
02/12/2014 12:33 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | County Legislator Kara Hahn introduced a bill aimed at examining the benefits of using beet-based brines, like the one above manufactured by East End Organics.

With snowfall totals soaring this winter season — and another storm on the way — area highway crews have been coating the roads with mixtures of salt and sand, but those mixtures are only so effective once temperatures dip below 20 degrees, according to town highway superintendents.  (more…)