BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - It won't be long before Old Man Winter stomps back into Western New York, but Erie County is already facing a storm of trouble. A contract battle could leave dozens of roads buried in snow and ice.
Dozens of Town Supervisors and Highway Superintendents brought the issue to the County Legislature's Economic Development Committee Tuesday. Since March they've been trying to reach agreement on a new three-year contract for plowing the county roads that go through their towns.
In the Town of Concord alone that accounts for half of the roads.
Concord Highway Superintendent Dennis Dains said, "We work hand in hand. We need you and you need us to maintain these roads for public safety."
The county reimburses the towns for plowing those county roads, and the rate usually goes up 5 percent a year. But this year, the county has offered less than a 1 percent increase. Meanwhile the contract expired August 31.
Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick said, "I know for a fact that if a snowstorm comes, there's no way that county, as good as our people are, are ever going to be able to plow all those roads."
Orchard Park Highway Superintendent Ed Michalski added, "Legally there's a liability issue. We cannot plow any of those highways."
The prices of gasoline and road salt have increased but county officials say so has the plowing contract.
Concord Town Supervisor Gary Eppolito argued, "We're just trying to get our costs back, we're not trying to make money on Erie County, that's not the point."
Deputy Erie County Budget Director Timothy Callan countered, "It's gone from $2.1 million in 2000 to $4.5 million this year. That's a 105 percent increase."
In the end the two sides are about $225,000 apart.
"Come back to the table. Let's talk instead of trying to negotiate this in front of TV cameras," Callan urged.
Tuesday seemed to mark a turning point. Right after the meeting, the two sides huddled together and made arrangements to resume negotiations Wednesday morning.
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