Highway boss produces drainage list; will bickering subside?

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | George "Gio" Woodson in the department's salt barns.

Riverhead Highway Superintendent George “Gio” Woodson has delivered the apparently long-requested priority list of town-wide drainage issues that need addressing.

The list, or lack thereof, has been at the center of a simmering dispute between Mr. Woodson and Supervisor Sean Walter in recent weeks.

“I don’t have to give him a list,” Mr. Woodson said today, Thursday. “I just did it to shut him up.”

Mr. Walter recently opposed several expenditures sought by Mr. Woodson, including a $12,000 security camera system and a $77,000 pole barn, both for the Route 58 highway yard, saying that he wanted to first see Mr. Woodson present a priority list of drainage issues in the town before spending money on anything else.

“I cannot in good conscience transfer money for him to build a pole barn when the week earlier he said he only had $25,000 for drainage and he had $30,000 to $40,000 worth of drainage projects to do,” Mr. Walter said last week.

Although Mr. Woodson is an elected official and can decide how to spend the money in his budget, the Town Board sets the annual highway budget and also controls appropriations and any transfers to and from his budget and the town’s general fund.

At Thursday’s Town Board work session, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio asked Mr. Walter if he had seen the priority list, which was delivered Thursday.

“I saw it and I thanked him for it,” Mr. Walter said at the work session, which Mr. Woodson was not present at. “Now I have to figure out how we are going to fund it.” The supervisor also said the list doesn’t including any projects in Jamesport or Wading River.

So, does this end the feud?

“Nobody perceives it as a feud except [Mr. Woodson] and the media,” Mr. Walter said. “I’m just trying to hold him accountable.

Mr. Woodson said he is doing a drainage project on Slyvan Avenue in Wading River next week, and that his highway crews did another last Monday.

“To me, it’s not a big deal. It’s stuff that needs to be done and when I get the funds I’ll do it,” Mr. Woodson said. “He’s trying to make a big deal out of it, but I think the people see through it as to what type of person he is. Anybody that stands up to him, he doesn’t like.”

Last week, Mr. Woodson refused to allow a highway department excavator to be used to demolish old buildings at the former Grumman picnic area at EPCAL, saying the town never paid him — in the form of a budget transfer — the $30,000 it owed his department for demolishing the Weeping Willow Motel.

Mr. Walter also criticized the highway department for taking too long on that job.

[email protected]

Looking to comment on this article? Send us a letter to the editor instead.