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…)

06/20/14 9:00am
06/20/2014 9:00 AM
Riverhead Highway Superintendent Gio Woodson in February. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Riverhead Highway Superintendent Gio Woodson in February. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The Riverhead Town Board voted 3-2 this week to allow Highway Superintendent George Woodson to purchase a Chevy Tahoe priced at $35,554 to use as his work vehicle, instead of a Ford Explorer that Supervisor Sean Walter says would cost $9,000 less. (more…)

04/17/13 1:00pm
04/17/2013 1:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Salt barns used by the Riverhead highway department. The GOP is set to screen one candidate for highway superintendent.

Riverhead Republicans plan to screen one candidate for highway superintendent, in addition to the Town Board seats, according to Republican chairman John Galla.

Mike Panchak of Riverhead is so far the only candidate seeking to screen for the party’s highway superintendent nomination, Mr. Galla said.

Mr. Panchak owns Eagle Asphalt Maintenance in Riverhead, and he is also a first lieutenant in the Riverhead Fire Department.

Mr. Panchak could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Republicans plan to screen prospective candidates for town offices tonight at the Hyatt Hotel on East Main Street, but have yet to set a date to nominate their choices, Mr. Galla said.

If nominated, Mr. Panchak would challenge incumbent Democrat George “Gio” Woodson, who has held the position since 2008.

Mr. Woodson, a former highway department employee, was elected to a two-year term in 2007 and was reelected to a four-year term in 2009. Riverhead voters voted to increase the term of the highway superintendent from two years to four in a 2009 proposition.

The only other town position up for reelection this fall is for assessor, where incumbent Republican Laverne Tennenburg is seeking reelection and doesn’t appear to have any challengers for the Republican nomination, Mr. Galla said.

Ms. Tennenburg was first elected in 1989, and has been the chair of the town Board of Assessors since 1997.

The Republicans plan to screen incumbent Sean Walter, Councilman Jim Wooten and Assessor Mason Haas for supervisor, Mr. Galla said. In addition, they plan to screen incumbents John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio for council, along with challenger Anthony Coates.

Greg Fischer, a registered Democrat, has asked to screen with both parties for a Town Board seat, although he has not specified if he’s seeking the supervisor post or a council seat.

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02/15/13 2:00am
02/15/2013 2:00 AM
George Woodson of Riverhead

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Highway Superintendent George Woodson uses heavy equipment to clear Marcy Avenue at 4:30 Saturday.

Despite the unique challenges every big storm poses, Riverhead Town Highway Superintendent George “Gio” Woodson has pretty much seen it all. No career politician, Mr. Woodson is a career highway worker with over two decades of experience as a town employee.

His expertise and work ethic show during every major weather event, when he rolls up his sleeves and takes to the roads himself.

He leads by example, which motivates workers and, in the end, means safer roads for residents. Of course, we would be remiss if we did not tip our hats to all the highway workers, too. The department has been operating at historically low staffing levels in recent years, yet it continues to impress taxpayers with its performance every time.

As Mr. Woodson notes in our coverage of the road-clearing efforts, there are no alternating teams for Riverhead Town highway workers, as is the case with the state. They’re all out there, all the time, save for two or three hours’ sleep here and there overnight or during white-out conditions.

In contrast, the performance of the state Department of Transportation (though not its workers themselves) was disappointing at best. The state seems to have no ability to turn up the volume and beef up snow removal staffing when it comes to the largest storms.

On Friday and Saturday, officials said, the DOT had three trucks assigned to cover Route 25 from Riverhead all the way to Orient, and another two trucks assigned to Route 24 in Southampton Town. That might be enough for a regular snowfall, but not a historic blizzard.

The lack of state resources was evident on our state roads. Route 24 was a deathtrap into Saturday night. And Routes 25 and 25A in Calverton and Wading River remained largely impassable for more than 48 hours.

All the while, other main roads in Riverhead Town were mostly clear, save for some snow blowing from farm fields.

Town and county officials have been mostly polite in their public comments about the state DOT, while rightfully criticizing residents for leaving cars on roads and being out when they shouldn’t have been. But the time for delicacy with the DOT is over.

Highway superintendents from across the county should demand changes in the way state roads are cleared.

Otherwise, it’s just a matter of time before something tragic happens.