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Lewis panel approves of summer highway workers, must determine funding

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LOWVILLE — A Lewis County legislative committee on Wednesday gave its blessing to hiring summer highway workers again, but county officials still must determine how to fund the temporary positions.

The Highway Committee, by a 3-0 vote, approved the hiring of three additional part-time workers from April through September at an estimated cost of $41,000.

“I think we can make it work with three guys,” county Highway Superintendent David L. Becker said, noting that an additional five may be available through Department of Social Services summer employment programs.

Summer workers typically handle tasks such as flagging traffic at paving project sites, although they first must undergo training to help ensure safety, Mr. Becker said.

“We’re not going to put anyone in jeopardy,” he said.

Without the temporary employees, other highway workers would have to be assigned to such jobs, meaning they likely would not have the time to replace culvert pipes and do other preparatory work on county road segments slated to be paved in 2014, Mr. Becker said.

Committee member Jack T. Bush, R-Brantingham, said he is always reluctant to cut too much in the Highway Department, since failure to do regular maintenance on roads and bridges often ends up costing more in the long run.

County Manager David H. Pendergast said he would try to find a way to fund the positions, which were not budgeted.

The full Legislature still must approve the move.

Summer highway worker positions traditionally were included in the county budget. However, they were removed in recent years to help cut costs, with the idea that the positions could be midyear additions if justification and funding were found.

Snow-removal funding was used last year because of the relatively mild winter, but there likely won’t be any extra money left in that account this year, Mr. Becker said.

Committee members also gave their approval to an additional office worker to be shared by the Highway and Solid Waste departments. Highway officials indicated that their share, about $8,000, could be covered within their budget.

They also approved adding Snell Road to the list of county roads to be striped this summer, although there was concern that striping more roads would continue to increase the annual cost of the program.

Roads typically need to be restriped every year to ensure visibility during inclement weather and lessen liability in the event of an accident, Mr. Becker said.

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