Poughkeepsie…Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus is pleased the 2008 Dutchess County Highway and Bridge Improvement Program, an annual program of countywide road & bridge maintenance projects, can finally move forward thanks to GOP Legislators, who at last night’s board meeting of the Dutchess County Legislature were outspoken and determined to have the opportunity to vote on the County Executive’s original bond resolution to fund the program. However, several other critical infrastructure investments including the energy efficient geothermal project were again delayed by the Democratic Majority. This continued delay will only add to the projects’ cost once they finally get started.
“After months of delay, in the face of rapidly rising costs, we can finally proceed on critical road and bridge projects without jeopardizing public safety,” said County Executive Steinhaus. “Unfortunately for the taxpayers of Dutchess County, the Democratic Majority chose to ignore the geothermal system, an alternative energy solution that would have saved over $33,000 in fuel costs annually.”
The 2008 Highway & Bridge Improvement Program includes improvements to the County Highway and Bridge System. The total program cost is $5,529,000. However, the annual Consolidated Highway Improvement Program Funds (CHIPS) from New York State will reduce the net cost to county government to $2,935,000. The funding will include pavement management, guide rail replacement, bridge and culvert project as well as miscellaneous highway improvements.
According to County Legislator Gerald Hutchings who represents the Town of Beekman, “We have a responsibility to the residents of the County to maintain our infrastructure and ensure our roads and bridges are safe for the motorists who travel on them daily. As the former Chairman of the Public Works Committee, I know how critical it is to ensure funding is available in order to get these projects going and I am pleased we were able to move them forward.”
County Executive Steinhaus had pressed the Legislature to finally approve the 2008 Highway & Bridge Improvement Program after having sent the bond resolution in April to fund the program, but it was delayed by the Democratic Majority. In the meantime, the County’s price for asphalt concrete jumped an unprecedented 20% from May to July alone. “We are pleased we can finally move these jobs forward before the price tag to complete them is out of our reach,” said Steinhaus.
The County Executive had also urged the County Legislature to approve an alternate energy geothermal system for the Highway Operations and Engineering Headquarters in the Town of Poughkeepsie as part of the $3.3 million Building and Facilities Bond. Unfortunately, the GOP efforts to revisit the bond resolution were defeated by the Democratic majority.
Energy costs have risen 25 to 30% in just the past few months. The geothermal system, which provides heating and cooling from the ground, is projected to save at least $33,000 in annual fuel costs, and the savings is only anticipated to grow as energy costs continue to rise.
Construction prices have also continued to rise. Costs are anticipated to escalate 12 to 18% annually for the projects included in the Buildings and Facilities Bond. Taxpayers will be asked to spend nearly $500,000 in additional costs if these projects are pushed out to next year.
“When partisan politics stonewall important infrastructure projects, it is only County taxpayers who lose. When buildings are allowed to fall into disrepair because of funding delays, when the cost of projects are increased because Democratic legislators choose to wait and see, it is the County employees and residents who use these facilities and pay the bill for the repairs who suffer the cost,” concluded County Executive Steinhaus.