03-25-09 - As the temperatures warm, county residents are starting the long-delayed process of removing trees and brush felled during the December ice storm.
That has county highway crews in overdrive, performing not only their own tree and brush clearing along county roads, but also picking up the never-ending piles of debris left along roads by residents.
“We get a road clear and the next thing you know the residents have dragged out more piles. It’s never-ending,” said Columbia County Highway Division Director Bernie Kelleher.
Kelleher said his sixty workers have been focused on tree and debris removal since the last of the snow and ice melted from the ground a couple of weeks ago. “We didn’t stop fighting snow until a couple of weeks ago, and that’s when we really started getting going, about the same time you saw piles appearing along the sides of the road,” he said.
The work entails clearing the felled trees and brush along the sides of county thoroughfares several feet from the sides of the roadway. Typically, the workers chip the trees and brush and leave it in the area, but in hamlets and populated areas, the crews have to remove the chips, Kelleher said.
The highway chief said the crews are willing to leave the chips with homeowners in the areas they are working if they are asked.
The volume of work is so significant that the county will be seeking bids from private contractors to take over some of the right-of-way cleanup in the towns of Taghkanic, Claverack, and Gallatin. “We got hit real hard down there and that’s been a slow process,” the highway chief said. Kelleher explained that if he didn’t bring in private contractors to perform the work, he would have to cancel or delay standard and necessary road maintenance projects around the county.
The contractors will focus on areas that include County Route 27 from Churchtown to West Taghkanic, County Route 10 through West and East Taghkanic, County Route 11 in Gallatin, also known as Pond Lily Road, and County Route 15, parallel to the Taconic State Parkway, in Gallatin.
“If I spend all summer working on cleanup, then I am not going to get done the work that is necessary,” said Kelleher.