County leaders tangle over roads issue

May 23, 2014

There's agreement and disagreement inside county government. While all agree that Erie County's vast network of roads is in bad shape, there is disagreement on what to do.


Officials disagree on how to deal with Erie County's crumbling roads and bridges.
Credit Mike Desmond/wbfo news

On Thursday, the Erie County Legislature allocated another $5 million into road repairs, hoping it can be spent this year.

The Poloncarz Administration isn't sure there is enough time and there are enough contractors ready to do the work.  The budget had previously targeted $27 million this year for roads and bridges.

With his district having its share of crumbling roads, Legislature Chair John Mills has backed an advisory board on the issue.  Towns and villages will have control of the board.

"You have to think out of the box and get your people fine-tuned as to the direction you're going, not just this Legislature and this county executive but future considerations," Mills said.

"You can't play games with serious things like the infrastructure. You need to focus on that. You have to cut culturals back or something else and trim some things back. You know, that's not a popular statement, probably, but I think they understand."

Mills says the county can't even give back the roads to the towns and villages because they are in bad shape and the towns and village won't take them back until they are fixed. After the county repaired Thorn Avenue, the road was taken back when Mills served on the Orchard Park Town Board.

That view is not shared by the Poloncarz Administration.

"There's actually about 2,400 miles of road. That's greater than any other county in New York State and actually greater than three states, Delaware, Rhode Island and Hawaii," said Mark Cornell, County Executive Poloncarz' liaison to the Legislature.

Cornell says the new advisory board is a stunt rather than a serious attempt to deal with problems.

"It's an issue that the county contends with every year because there are limited resources that can be spent on highway repairs and especially this year."

Cornell says the county could probably give back to the towns and villages more than 200 miles of roads but admits they would have to be fixed.