By Dean Arnold, Town of Wellsville Highway Superintendent, 9/28/21
As Highway Superintendent of the Town of Wellsville, I would like to clarify a few things stated in the September 18 article, correct some of the representations and fill in missing facts. The most important of those are at no time was the Town of Wellsville asked to be responsible for a half a million dollars without reimbursement through due process, the timeline on this situation hinges on an October 1 deadline because it involves a registered trout stream and L.C. Whitford has current contracts with NYSDOT to perform work of this nature.
First , the timeline on this situation is critical. After the recent flooding event, the Dyke Creek Levee, built by the USDA in 1992, sustained heavy damage from the significant downpour that hit our region. I contacted and met with the Emergency Coordinator for Allegany County and the NYS Emergency Management Coordinator. After inspecting the flood damage, it was a deemed an emergency project.
Under government rules and procedures, because of the Oct 1st deadline, no work is permitted in a registered trout stream without an extension of permits. Failure to obtain the extensions would cause further delay.
When storms of this magnitude occurs, a chain of organizations are called on the scene to assess any damage in our county and to make sure we have the means to get the help quickly for damages that could cause hazardous and unsafe conditions to our residents and property. Those organizations include the Allegany County Emergency Management Coordinator, State Emergency Management Coordinator and FEMA.
The NYS Emergency Management Team asked me to get a quote to get the process started and I contacted L.C. Whitford Company. This was done in part because of the time sensitivity of the situation and October 1 deadline. L.C. Whitford has current contracts with NYSDOT to perform work of this nature and is familiar with the state actors who oversee this type of emergency project. A reason they have this contract is they have the expertise and experience on building levees and infrastructure in general. Moreover, L.C. Whitford has firsthand knowledge of what is needed, such as permits, material and the time needed to perform and complete this scope of work. They are a Wellsville company and could respond quickly to the task at hand. For these reasons, I called them for a price quote for the emergency repairs.
I contacted the Town Supervisor with this information, explained the situation and advised himof my intentions to proceed with this project.
After this conversation, I later found out that the Town Supervisor decided to call in a few local contractors of his choice, not even knowing the full scope of work and circumstances needed to fulfill this project and the laws governing such situations—all of which are established and mandated by FEMA. This type of intervention by a Town Supervisor is unusual because these matters are typically handled by the Town Highway Superintendent or Public Works Director. The Town Supervisor and Town board proceeded to award the project to the lowest bidder who may or may not be qualified to perform the scope of work for this project. Again, the Town Supervisor had not contacted me—again very unusual—before speaking with these contractors. I would have been happy to go with the Town Supervisor and meet to discuss the process and scope of work with the contractors the Town Supervisor chose.
It is interesting that the Town Supervisor did have the time to contact the Wellsville Sun News to broadcast he had just saved the Town about a half a million dollars after an emergency meeting he had called into session. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the emergency meeting on such short notice. Moreover, as a practical matter, the law imposes procedural review and other requirements before the Town Board can make a decision. In short, there is paperwork to be completed and due diligence to be conducted. The Town Supervisor knew or should have known this, but his apparent desire for a positive headline highlighting his efforts interfered with his judgment and his obligation to govern responsibly.
For the past 13 years I have worked with FEMA on several disaster relief projects. Those efforts resulted in a savings of a bit over 2 million dollars for Town residents. What the Town Supervisor failed to report is that although the EMERGENCY PROJECT COST may have been about a half of a million dollars, those costs are born and distributed under a THREE-TIER PAYOUT. A three-tier payout means that FEMA, the State and the Town each pay a share of the bill. The Town’s share is often minimal. In my experience, the Town’s share is usually about 2% percent of the total project cost. Here, that would be around $8700.00,
As your elected Town Highway Superintendent, I have dealt with FEMA and disasters like this for several years. To be undermined by the renegade actions of the Town Supervisor is troubling. He should be working with me, not going behind my back. We are both elected by the Town residents and we need to work together for the taxpayers of our town—not for glorious headlines.
This work is critical. It protects the lives and property of our town residents. It needs to be performed by a company with expertise and experience. L.C. Whitford is a stand-up Company, respected greatly by this community, county and state. The actions of the Town Supervisor may have put this project in jeopardy for the timeline we were presented. However, I will make every effort to make sure it moves forward.
I will continue work to the best of my ability and keep the residents of the Town as a priority as I always have. I hope the Town Supervisor will join me in that commitment.
Town of Wellsville