Road Swap coming to a Town near you

Granville Sentinel Newspaper 9/4/14

County considers realignment of highways

By Derek Liebig

Washington County supervisors are looking at ways they can make local highway departments more efficient.

The county and local towns are looking at the possibility of jurisdictional realignment as part of an effort to increase the overall efficiency of maintaining town and county roadways.

The town of Hartford and the county’s’ Public Works Committee last week tentatively agreed to swap ownership of Shine Hill Road, a town-owned roadway, and County Routes 23 and 23A, the main thoroughfare in Hartford.

County Route 23 and 23A are maintained by Washington County, but Haff and Greg Brown, Hartford’s highway superintendent, have expressed a desire for the town to maintain the road themselves.

“The Hartford Highway Garage is on also on County Route 23 (Main Street) so it makes sense that we maintain and snowplow our own Main Street that all the Town snowplow trucks have to drive on to leave the highway garage anyway,” Haff said. The county used to pay Hartford to maintain the road and Haff had hoped to renew that agreement but the county balked. So Haff proposed the idea of a swap.

Initially, Hartford had proposed the county take over jurisdiction of Pope Hill Road, but it didn’t meet the county’s criteria.

“The county didn’t want any road that ended on a town road,” Haff said, explaining that the county would only agree to swap if the road connected two county roads or connected to a state road.

Instead, the county agreed to Shine Hill Road, which is the most heavily traveled town road in Hartford, and connects Routes 40 and 196.

Haff said Shine Hill Road is longer than Route 23 and 23A but the latter roads are wider and would require roughly the same amount of care.

Although Haff concedes the swap won’t result in an immediate cost savings for the town or the county, he said it does make maintaining the roads more efficient for both entities and over time that efficiency should save both money.

“The whole idea is to make it easier,” Haff said.

The idea isn’t necessarily new. A little more than 30 years ago, the county proposed a series of swaps but the deal wasn’t equitable for the local towns and the proposal went no where. But Haff believes there may be some merit to reexamining the idea.

“If every town in the county looked for efficiencies there could be some savings,” he said.

The idea, however, would need to be examined on a townby- town basis.

“I think you need that local knowledge,” Haff said.

Granville Supervisor Matt Hicks said the town is in process of examining areas in which the town’s “beats,” or snow plowing routes may intersect with that of the county. Like Hartford, Granville’s highway barn is located on a county road. He also said there are a number of roads in which very small stretches fall under the jurisdiction of one entity and it could make sense for the portions of those roads to be maintained by other highway departments, be that the town or the county.

“I think it’s a good thing and I’m glad Dana got the ball rolling on this,” Hicks said.

Although he concedes the idea won’t result in immediate cost savings, over time he believes the county and local towns could save money.

“I think it would make things efficient over time,” Hicks said.

Hampton Supervisor Dave O’Brien said the town has looked at ways it could save material and labor by eliminating the number of occurrences where county and town trucks are traveling over the same roads, but the community’s geography makes it difficult to find a suitable swap.

“We have so many roads that don’t connect to county roads,” O’Brien said.

The town, however, will continue to examine other ways they could improve their efficiency.

The agreement between Hartford and the county will still need to be approved by the full board of supervisors. Haff said the concept has already been approved by the Hartford Town Council.