When the snow hits this weekend, town highway crews will be out plowing Erie County roads under a new contract approved Thursday by the County Legislature.
The snow plow contract has been a flash point for years, as the county and its 31 municipalities fight over what the fee will be. This time, the final approval waited until there was actually snow in the weather forecast. Legislature Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo says it is about time the deal came up for approval.
"I called the County Executive on that yesterday. I knew that there was an agreement that had been finalized. We didn't have anything before us for today," Lorigo says. "I asked the County Executive and shortly thereafter it came over for us to vote on it today. So I'm happy that we have that and will be ensuring that roads are plowed going forward, especially for this weekend."
This new three-year deal raises the fee three percent for this winter and three percent more for each of the next two years. The old pact expired August 31.
The money is in the budget for this year. Without a contract, the local plows would not have worked on county roads. Legislature Chairman John Mills says there has to be a better way to do this.
"You can't take it to the bitter end like this. This is unacceptable to the residents. It's a matter of public safety," Mills says. "If we had had a storm like that one October we had a storm, technically you couldn't put a town plow on those county roads. So I'm happy it was taken care of. The three percent/three percent/three percent is going to work out well for the towns and for the county."
Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo says his district and Mills' district cover 65 percent of county roads, spread across the Southtowns, some of them heavily-traveled highways where accumulating ice and snow can be a major problem.