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Road and bridge repair dispute paving way for county partisanship

Erie County Department of Public Works

Erie County government's continuing political war over worn roads and bridges is heating up again.

At issue is how much is being spent to repair them - and in a heated political climate, the answer is fuzzy.

Former Erie County Legislature Chairman John Mills asked County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw to figure out how much is being spent, while County Executive Poloncarz outlined spending while speaking in North Collins Monday.

"We're going to spend $31 million on road work this year. Last week I authorized an additional $3 million to be spent through borrowing," Poloncarz said. "We had a $28 million plan, a portion was going to be borrowed. I authorized another $3 million to be borrowed. You got to pay for it in the long run, because we're borrowing it. So it's part of our debt service. We're actually going to be retiring more debt, even with the extra $3 million, than we're going to be putting on."

Mills said how much is planned is more than how much will be actually spent.

"Village of Angola: $4.5 million project to repave the whole Main Street, South and North Main Street in the Village of Angola, will not be done this year," Mills said. "So they're throwing patch into the holes now, which is a waste of taxpayers' money. They're going to do design work this year, which should have been done last year, and roll that $4.5 million over to next year."

Mychajliw is the expected Republican candidate for county executive, so he's expected to do the study on this year.

"Legislator Mills has spoken about our office taking a hard look at  the specific numbers of what is spent," Mychajliw said. "If Legislator Mills gives us a formal request to actually provide a report on the real amount of money spent on roads, we'll do that."

Mychajliw said last year, actual roads and bridges spending was just under $28 million. A complication this year is that the price of asphalt for paving is skyrocketing with the rapid increase in the price of crude oil, the essential ingredient in asphalt.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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