Highway supe: GPS units could save Riverhead big bucks

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Highway Superintendent George "Gio" Woodson looks on as a highway worker loads a truck with salt before January snow storm.

Riverhead Highway Superintendent George “Gio” Woodson wants to install global positioning systems into his fleet of trucks, a move he said could save the town thousands of dollars a year in wasted fuel costs by better tracking drivers.

But some Town Board members who heard Mr. Woodson’s pitch at Thursday’s Town Board work session were not sure the town could cover the initial costs of installing the units due to a state-mandated cap on how much it can raise taxes next year.

“We can save on gas fuel by having this,” Mr. Woodson told the Town Board at Thursday’s work session. “It basically pays for itself in the long run.”

“This is what I’ve been told by other towns,” he later said in an interview, “it’s a safety factor during snowstorms and it’s a new way to tracking your employees.”

Councilman John Dunleavy offered reservations on the plan, asking why Mr. Woodson and the department supervisors couldn’t monitor employees without the aid of a GPS device. Councilwoman Jodi Giglio countered by saying that knowing where individual vehicles are can make it easier when dispatching workers during emergencies. She also said the devices can be used to monitor speed and other safety issues.

Neighboring Brookhaven Town began installing GPS units in town vehiles last year, a move town officials at the time said could save the much larger municipality $640,000 a year. The three-year contract with Vehicle Tracking Solutions LLC of Deer Park  to install the GPS hardware and furnish the GPS software to the town cost Brookhave $250,000. The town did receive push back from the unions, however.

As Mr. Woodson was discussing his 2012 budget with the board, he also asked for five additional full-time employees and 10 part-time employees to maintain Riverhead’s 444 miles of roads, citing a town that has grown and a highway department that hasn’t grown with it.

Mr. Dunleavy cast doubts on the feasibility of adding full-time workers in the budget and suggested only adding part-time workers. Supervisor Sean Walter said such a move would have to be vetted by the town’s Civil Service Employees Association.

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