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Fire hydrant struck by county patrol car costs Pamelia $7,189 to fix

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In October, a Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy slammed his patrol car into a fire hydrant outside Reimann’s Supply Center in the town of Pamelia. This week, the town filed a claim to recoup from the county the $7,189.58 that it paid for repairs.

At 1:20 a.m. Oct. 8, Deputy Jamie M. Taylor, who was driving east on Water Street, was responding to an alarm to assist another county patrol car stationed outside Reimann’s that was operated by Tapulei J. Vaveao, an intern training at the department. The police report filed that evening describes how Mr. Taylor “was unable to see” the fire hydrant because of no lighting in the lot. The hydrant is only about 10 feet from the side of the road.

Ordinarily, hydrants that are clipped by cars sustain only minimal damage because they’re equipped with a “breakaway rod and valve” to prevent underground damage, Pamelia Highway Superintendent Dennis G. Hoistion said. But in this case, the hydrant was struck hard enough to damage the rod all the way to the water main, making the repair expensive.

“The valve was broken down near the water main,” Mr. Hoistion said. “I think it was an odd thing that it broke everything down below, because lots of times you can just replace the top piece. It took some force to break it off its mounting.”

The new hydrant was installed in early November, and it now has two 4-foot posts on both sides and an orange cone in front to deter future accidents. It was installed by workers from Marcellus Construction Co., Mannsville.

“It’s not unusual for me to get a call from an accident or something like that in the middle of the night,” Mr. Hoistion said. “But what was unusual is to have a deputy hit it. They’re human beings, too, but the circumstances were odd. I personally can’t really imagine two patrol cars would be in the same area, especially” on Water Street, where there’s low traffic.

Jefferson County Sheriff John P. Burns said the two vehicles met at the site at that time because they were responding to an alarm together. He didn’t recall the nature of the alarm.

“As far as I know, he pulled into the parking lot and struck the fire hydrant,” he said. “It’s not unusual to have two cars respond to an alarm.”

Mr. Hoistion filed a claim Wednesday to Jefferson County to recoup the cost of the hydrant repair. He said he was told the county will submit the claim to its attorney for review.

“I don’t see why the county won’t reimburse the town for what the damage is,” he said. “It’s a lot of money for the town to lose.”

In cases like these, Deputy County Administrator Michael E. Kaskan said, the county attorney will decide whether the bill can be paid administratively or whether it can be approved by the Jefferson County Finance and Rules Committee or Board of Legislators. Because Pamelia’s request is in the range of $5,000 to $10,000, he said, it would have to be approved by the Finance and Rules Committee; claims under $5,000 can be approved by administrators, while those over $10,000 need approval by the full board.

Pamelia Supervisor Lawrence C. Longway said he was surprised county patrol cars were involved in the incident.

The hydrant has “been in the middle of the street for five years, and it doesn’t move much. I don’t think the fire hydrant jumped out and hit the car. I think the county will pay us back eventually for this.”

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