Talk of $30 million highway complex re-emerge in county government

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

NEW CITY – Support from the county executive has revived shelved plans to build a new $30 million highway complex to replace the current, aging structure in New City.

The new building, which would be situated on a 27-acre property near Thruway Exit 14 in Chestnut Ridge, was prioritized by County Executive Ed Day during his State of the County. Day argued the new location would help the Highway Department maintain their equipment in ideal conditions.

At the same time, Day emphasized the plan, an expensive one which would likely find financing through borrowing, would support newer fleets of vehicles and provide valuable long-term operational and equipment savings.

“We are not looking to spend one penny more than we need to,” Day stated.

A replacement for the facility had been discussed since 2000 and a plan was drawn up, but the new building was put on the back burner after the county’s fiscal crisis in 2009 made the increasingly expensive plan infeasible in the short-term. The existing plan has not been updated for almost a decade, leaving questions as to whether the original price tag will still hold.

To receive approval from the County Legislature, it must pass this hurdle. Legislator Michael Grant indicated the legislature will seek an updated plan which includes not only updated overall costs but details on energy efficiency measures, costs from a proposed natural gas filling station and the feasibility of bond repayment.

“We want to make sure it’s what we need, what we can afford, and what will meet our needs going forward for the next 20 years, because it is a 20 year project,” Grant said.

Day stated he believes that due to the important nature of the updates, cooperation with the Legislature is likely.

“We certainly look at them as partners in this,” Day said. “There’s a need to address it and the key is to address it in a cost-effective manner.”

The current facility used to house vehicles and equipment for the Highway Department in New City has proven insufficient to meet the needs of the county. There is frequently little room for storage in the at the current site, meaning equipment is often left exposed to the elements.

Barring significant changes, the new location would make use of the Chestnut Ridge property’s spaciousness and accessibility to different areas of the county. At the site, storage of equipments and maintenance activities would occur indoors, just below administrative offices and the drainage, traffic safety and engineering divisions of the Highway Department. Separate buildings would include a car wash and additional storage space.

Day has also alluded to the possibility of a revenue-generating compressed natural gas filling station, a public/private partnership which would raise funds by allowing commercial vehicles to fill up alongside the Highway Department’s fleet. He argued $6 million in savings could be realized over the lifespan of the facility, mostly through equipment and personnel savings.

Aside from the new headquarters, the Highway Department will have a busy 2015, with seven major projects slated to begin and others pending approval. Among the scheduled projects are replacements of bridges in Montebello, Orangeburg and West Haverstraw, drainage and pavement updates in Ramapo and Grandview-On-Hudson and a lane intersection reconstruction in Thiells.

Day stated that with the proper approvals, the bidding process and construction for the new Highway Department building could begin as early as 2016.