Dryden, N.Y. — An audit written by state deputy comptroller Gabriel Deyo found several faults with the Town of Dryden’s handling of road maintenance, including lackluster record keeping and low funding.
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At the conclusion of his letter to the Dryden Town Board, Deyo recommended the board adopt a formal long-term plan for the maintenance of Dryden’s nearly 120 miles of roads, which it currently does not have.
In a response to Deyo, town supervisor Mary Ann Sumner said it would take a “daunting amount of staff time” to develop such a plan, and that implementing a plan would be a “seemingly insurmountable challenge.”
Here are the details of what the audit found:
1 — The town’s current budget is not enough to fix roads
The audit estimated $2.3 million would be needed to make all roads defect-free — of that, $1.3 million would go toward paving and $1 million would include preventative and routine maintenance. Out of the $1.36 million allocated to the highway fund in the adopted 2014 budget, the audit said $950,000 is for road repair and maintenance.
The audit said it was not necessary for Dryden’s roads to be defect-free.
“If Town officials decide that having their roads defect-free is an unattainable or unnecessary goal, they should establish a level of service for their roads and adjust this liability figure accordingly,” the audit said. “The need for repair and improvement of the Town’s roads will continue to grow if not adequately addressed. Maintaining proper records and a long-term Plan will enable the Town to invest its limited funds in the most cost-effective manner.”
2 — Former highway superintendent did not keep adequate records
The audit said that the previous highway superintendent, Jack Bush, who served from 2000–2013, had an informal methodology of surface-treating roads every five years and repaving them every 20 years. There was no long-term schedule or plan.
In addition, Bush did not keep records of which roads were deemed important and average daily traffic — instead, he found an annual visual inspection provided a better indication of what work was needed than projections based on these factors.
The audit said Bush did not document his annual visual inspections, making it difficult to provide evidence of his work.
“No one can determine if the Town properly managed its roads because the former Highway Superintendent did not ensure that road maintenance goals, methodologies and inventories were fully documented and included important details about road histories and conditions.”
3 — Inventory missing information, factual inaccuracies
The audit said the town’s road inventory included information about each road’s surface type, the type of work done on it and years when work had been done. However, it was missing information on the current conditions of roads, average daily travel and importance of each road.
In addition, the audit found that recent roadwork information for 24 of 191 road sections was inaccurate.
“The Board was aware of the former Highway Superintendent’s approach to managing the Town’s road infrastructure, but did not officially adopt such plans and ensure that the taxpayers were properly informed,” the audit said.
Recommendations from comptroller’s office
Deyo gave four recommendations for the Town of Dryden in the audit.
“1. The highway superintendent should maintain a more comprehensive and accurate road inventory that includes average daily traffic, road importance, previous maintenance work by section and current condition of the roads.
2. The board should adopt a formal long-term plan that includes a goal for the quality of town roads and a methodology for achieving that goal.
3. The highway superintendent should develop a long-term schedule based on the goal, methodology and inventory that shows when each road will be worked on and how this
work will be funded.
4. The highway superintendent and the board should ensure that the annual agreement is in compliance with the long-range Plan and that any deviations from the Plan should be explained.”
In a response from Sumner to Deyo, she said Dryden has done a remarkable job with maintaining the roads on a limited budget.
“Based on my casual observation and comments from residents, I estimate that our roads, although certainly not perfect, are quite respectable.”
Sumner also said the suggested $2.3 million budget to make Dryden’s roads defect-free does not include the daunting amount of staff time needed to develop a formal, long-term plan.
In a letter to the state comptroller, the current highway superintendent Richard Young said that sufficient evidence had been provided to support a need for additional funding to maintain the roads.
“Given the current budget, we are unable to sufficiently maintain our highways in accordance with the Cornell Local Roads Program — the standard by which all highways are assessed,” Young said. “We are prepared to work with the Town Board to devise a mutually beneficial budget plan.”