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Warren County looks at privatization of road paving

Warren County looks at privatization of road paving

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The need for a new paving machine and concerns about quality of paving work are prompting Warren County leaders to take a look at whether the county needs its own paving crew.

The county’s 10-year-old paving machine has been knocked out of service in recent weeks by mechanical problems, issues that arose during the paving of Hadley Road in Stony Creek and will require repairs to weeks-old pavement. A new replacement machine costs at least $300,000.

That equipment problem, and complaints about paving quality, have prompted county leaders to renew a call to investigate the possible privatizing of paving operations for county roads.

Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, said he has asked that the county’s 2016 budget preparation include a review of whether privatizing paving will save the county money.

Warrensburg is one of a number of towns in the county that don’t have their own paving operations have also stopped using the county crew in favor of private companies or other municipalities because of concerns about quality. He said the town of Warrensburg’s last three paving jobs that were done by county crews had to be re-done because of quality concerns.

Geraghty said the paving quality has improved in recent years, but repeatedly having to repave mistake areas is too costly to ignore.

“It’s a matter of efficiency. I think it’s something we need to take a look at,” he said.

Stony Creek Highway Superintendent Neil Bradley has been one of the most vocal critics of the county’s paving operation, saying the town stopped using county paving crews two years ago because of quality control problems.

He said the issue with Hadley Road, a county highway that runs between Stony Creek and Hadley, resulted in the new pavement peeling off the old pavement within hours. Geraghty also said the pavement came up on part of the road within days.

“I literally picked it right up off the road,” Bradley said.

“You can’t have a road delaminate two days later,” Geraghty said.

Bradley said he does not believe members of the paving crew has been properly trained to use paving equipment.

Warren County Public Works Superintendent Jeff Tennyson said privatizing the paving operation was explored several years ago, and it was determined it would not save money but would cost 20 percent more when all the labor and oversight was factored in.

“It would definitely be more expensive,” he said.

Tennyson said the crew knew that the paver was having mechanical trouble on Hadley Road, but with loads of hot blacktop waiting in trucks at the job site, the crew decided it had to be put down instead of wasted. Problems with the paving machine have accounted for most of the quality issues, he said.

The county DPW is doing about $2 million in paving projects on county roads this year, most of it funded by state highway aid.

The DPW has four highway crews, one bridge crew and one paving crew in the summer, full-time staff supplemented by seasonal part-timers. Tennyson said he was only aware of one county in the state, Monroe County, that didn’t operate its own paving crew.

Shutting down the county crew would also force the towns that use the county operation to have to find another option, he added.

Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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