MEXICO — There are some things you can count on in life. That it will snow every winter in Oswego County is one of them. If frogs suddenly fell from the sky by the millions, and the towns and county government didn’t handle the situation in a too coordinated or efficient way, they could be forgiven. For, after all, it was an unheard of emergency.
Snow falling from the sky in the winter in Oswego County is not an unheard of emergency. And plowing that snow is not new either. Why then, after all these years, can’t the towns and the county get together on who does what, and who pays for it?
What is the point of contracts between the towns and the county if they are not fulfilled? And if the failure of a town to perfectly live up to the exact requirements of a contract cannot be overlooked by the county, why should the failure of the county to live up to its exact requirements of that same contract be forgiven? The irony is just too much.
Following the 2016-2017 snowplowing season, according to town Supervisor Dave Anderson, Mexico submitted its bill to the county for plowing certain county roads within the town “a couple weeks late.” The county refused to pay, though according to Anderson, their original response was exactly the opposite.
“They concealed the fact that they weren’t going to pay us,” Anderson said. “They didn’t come right out and tell us. In fact, quite the contrary. We had a meeting with them on April 24, 2017. They said they’d pay us. They just never did.”
At least not totally, as Anderson explained,
“The county highway superintendent said — he called me, called me right at my office — said, ‘just want to let you know I’ve approved everything for payment.’ And sure enough, part of the check came, but 26,000 bucks was missing.”
After that, said Anderson, “we tried every avenue to get paid, and they wouldn’t pay.” But, he said, “we’re not taking no for an answer.”
And so, it was on to court. Judge James McCarthy ruled in favor of the county. The state’s highest court, the state Court of Appeals, disagreed.
According to Anderson, “the NY Court of Appeals overturned Judge McCarthy’s ruling and said, ‘You can’t do this.’”
The case was thereupon sent back to State Supreme Court where it will be tried.
In the meantime, Anderson said, “we don’t have any agreement with the county.”
As a result, Mexico no longer plows the county roads in their town. The county plows them, Anderson said, “whenever they get around to it, which is usually late.”
Anderson believes that’s intentional.
“They don’t plow our roads,” he said. “They don’t maintain them (the county roads within Mexico). They make sure that’s at the very end. There’s been numerous accidents. There’s really a concerted effort to punish us because we had the audacity to take them to court because they’re wrong.”
Anderson has a quick solution to the whole dispute.
“They can end it any time and pay us, pay us and pay us our expenses. They don’t seem to want to do that. But they have all sorts of money to spend on other things.
And then, there’s the town of Richland, where the shoe is on the other foot.
According to the minutes of the town board’s Nov. 12 meeting, Highway Superintendent John Fox informed the board that, “per the agreement with Oswego County Ice and Snow contract, the town of Richland still has not received the first installment of the contract that was due in October.”
County Legislator Edward Gilson was in attendance to present a legislative report to the town board, following which, he was advised by Town Supervisor Dan Krupke that as of Nov. 12, the county had not paid the town for its snowplowing. Town Councilman and Deputy Town Supervisor Kern Yerdon “advised Mr. Gilson that if the town was late, they would be penalized by having the county cancelling the contract.”
Krupke, interviewed Jan. 13, did not recall the county’s reason for being late with their payment but said, “we did receive our check. They (the county) were a month late, but we did get ours in early December.”
As far as future payments go, he said, “I think our next payment is in February. Credibility is certainly important. Unfortunately, that’s to be decided. We’ll see if their next payment is on time or not.”
Richland plows all its town and village roads. The county plows some county roads, but for the most part, Richland plows the county roads within Richland, and the county pays Richland for doing so.
“We’ve done it for many, many years,” said Krupke. “It’s just that they (the county) recently changed the contract or agreement. It’s on a different basis how we get paid. This is the first year going into that contract. In the past the county helped out with sand, they helped out with the cost of salt, labor, covering benefits. Instead of paying for the salt and the sand now, the town supplies all the salt, all the sand, and then we get a flat rate per mile that we plow.”
That rate is set by the county. Every town gets the same rate.
Previously, said Krupke, “some townships were getting more than other townships. Now we all get the same rate, and we have the same responsibility of making sure the roads get salted, sanded, and plowed.”
As far as business deals go, this one is of questionable profitability for the town.
“I don’t think there’s a profit,” said Krupke, “but I’d definitely say that we break even. I think we’ll be OK with it. I personally think that the compensation we’re getting now is a little bit better than the contract we were in previously.”
So then, what’s in it for the town? Why not just let the county plow its roads?
“Where it makes sense,” Krupke said, “is that we have to go over these county roads to get to town roads, so, we’re already driving over them. So, if we’re already driving over them, why not drop the plow and salt and sand? I think from an efficiency standpoint for all taxpayers whether township or county or state, it makes more sense. I mean why have a county truck go over a road that we’re already going over? And we’re getting compensated for it.”
What the town doesn’t do is plow state roads, such as Route 13. Krupke would like to see the efficiencies of the town plowing for others expanded to include plowing state roads.
“I wish we did (plow state roads),” he said. “They pay a lot better than the county.”