BY MAT CLOUSER
PITTSFORD — Questions and confusion surrounding the culvert project on West Creek Road dominated an emotional selectboard meeting last week after the project was recently delayed, causing an additional month of road closures.
Kate Kennedy, a resident of West Creek Road, was on hand to speak to the board about the undue pressures she and her fellow residents felt as a result of the delays. “I really don’t like to come to these meetings, and I really don’t like to be a negative human,” she said. “But the fact of the matter is I’m watching the nine families that live at our end of West Creek Road really carrying a burden that the rest of the town is not carrying.”
The problem stems from the road closures on West Creek Road. The project, originally slated to take place from July 25 to August 1, was recently delayed until September 1 but could take even longer if the contractor cannot procure a large crane to put the culvert in place.
Residents on West Creek Road (many of whom are farmers) near Hard Farm have been faced with long detours to get around the construction. The farmers themselves have been hit with increased pick-up fees due to the driving delays faced by the companies they work with, making an already razor-thin margin all but disappear.
“The Champlain Farm is losing about $150 in vegetable sales a day because people can’t get down our road,” said Kennedy.
But the problem, in Kennedy’s eyes, is bigger than that and stems from the additional month of delays that came via a sign change rather than any official communication to the residents. “No matter how you look at it, guys, that’s just crap,” she said. “I want to know what you guys are going to do about this.”
The board’s response was less compassionate than matter-of-fact.
“In defense of the board, we talked about just paving the road, and then… at some point and time [the culvert] was going to have to be replaced… unfortunately, there is no good time,” said David Mills. “You can’t do it in the winter, and so it’s got to be done in the summer… We’re either interfering with planting season, first cut, second cut—somewhere along the way, we’re going to interfere with something.”
Mills continued to say that the project’s contractor, Rick Reed, was willing to work hard to get the road at least to the point of one-way traffic over the next three weeks.
“I’m willing to let this slide for twenty-one days from today,” said a Kennedy, almost joking. “If I have to come back to this meeting, you guys better have lawyers, guns, and money because I will be coming back smoking,” said Kennedy, almost joking.
Reed was hopeful but remained unwilling to promise that timeline, citing several unforeseen difficulties he and his crew faced. “We ran into flaws of no base in there, so we had to go down another foot. We put material, and road fabric in that wasn’t expected,” he said, “and then we realized that the layout wasn’t going to lay out right, so we had to go back in and re-dig.”
Furthering the difficulties, Reed said, was the uncertain availability of an 80- or-100-ton crane to lay the culvert in place.
“I’m not going to try and put the engineer under the bus, but I feel a lot of this is all because of him,” Reed continued, citing a number of issues that were either done late, such as the project’s benchmarks, or handed to him incorrectly, such as the project’s drawings—including an incorrect angle for the culvert which caused the entire project to be shifted by 10 degrees (roughly 4.5 feet).
Rep. Butch Shaw spoke up to help alleviate some of the collective anxiety in the room. “It’s a common occurrence now to close state highways to do this type of work, and we do it quite often,” he said. “The issue statewide is public information. What I would suggest to the board is to send a note to the people on West Creek Road every week and give them an update of where they are, so there are no more surprises when something like this happens.”
The board and the public seemed amenable to this, and it was decided that would be the tack moving forward.
In other business, the selectboard:
- Reviewed several invoices, noting that PPD had recently spent $300 on 20 AR-15 magazines, the expense and need for which were unclear to the board.
- Heard from Town Manager Brenda Fox-Howard about an ongoing issue with the town’s old ordinances, many of which are outdated and have cost the town money for failure to collect. Fox-Howard said that she was developing a comprehensive presentation for the board and that she would present it in the near future.
- Discussed ongoing landscaping issues, including the potential removal and replacement of bushes outside the town offices that might be contributing to rot. The issue was tabled pending an upcoming contract review.
- Discussed a CDBG grant awarded to the Pittsford Village Farm that required more work on the town’s part than had been anticipated. “This was not part of the deal,” said David Mills. It was decided that PVF would be invited to the next selectboard meeting to discuss the best way forward.
- Discussed issues with trucks, in particular, Swift and OMYA trucks getting stuck on roadways and crossing over bridges they were using illegally, partly due to new corporate policy directing drivers through those routes.
- Heard from Rep. Shaw regarding the Agency of Transportation’s blessing for the town to repair all of the old sidewalks in the village at its own expense. The board noted needing to act quickly to repair the sidewalks this summer. Brenda Fox-Howard said she had an $81,000 bid in place that included labor but no extruded curbing. It was the board’s decision to request a new bid that included said curbing.