LITTLE VALLEY Economic conditions, paired with harsh temperatures over the past winter have developed into a tough position for the Cattaraugus County Department of Public Works, but not an impossible one, with a lot of work taking place in-house, according to officials.
Commissioner of Works Joseph Pillittere said his crews have been a huge effort in the changes that have taken place to decrease the funds needed to operate, and to keep the county infrastructure in good condition.
"In 1992, the public works budget made up about 21 percent of the total county. That amount has fallen to about 10 percent," Pillittere said. "That decrease is due to a lot of preliminary project work being done in-house."
As far as in-house work, Cattaraugus County has been able to do a lot of business, both in the county and throughout the state, in making road signs. Those signs not only adorn the sides of roadways to direct drivers in the normal warnings, but also in making community organizational signs and special promotional signs. One such sign, a series of signs that will be at all the major entrances to the county, identify Cattaraugus County as a Purple Heart County, the first in the region.
Another reason for the decrease in the amount needed to keep the works department afloat is in the people, Pillittere said.
"We have good, dedicated people in the department that do what they can to save some money for us," he said. "We have been able to come up with ways to save time and equipment to get the most out of the taxpayers' dollars."
Cattaraugus County can boast that 89 percent of the county-owned roads are rated in "fair" condition. The county owns 396 miles of road, 267 bridges, 274 culverts and 1,530 drainage structures. To make sure that inventory is kept to the highest standard possible, the county Works Department employs 127 full-time employees at five hubs spread throughout the county.
After the hard winter this year, a bumper crop of potholes are being repaired, and are expected to be worked on throughout the early summer months. Recent rain storms have made a messy situation of several areas of the county as well, including Gowanda, Randolph and South Valley. Damage estimates have been around the $6.8 million mark. That level does not reach federal aid levels through FEMA, but are high enough for the county to apply for state aid packages.
"In the past, the Governor has come forward with funds to help in repairs like this," Pillittere said. "We are in the process of figuring out what is needed and where our priority repairs are."
In other Works Department news, a measure to move the standard work week to four 10-hour days per week passed through both, supervisory and general unions, 14-to-2 and 65-to-8, respectively.