Onondaga County towns at odds with county over snowplow costs

Area town supervisors and the county Department of Transportation are working to plow through a bitter battle over snow removal procedures this winter on county roads.

Four towns in Onondaga County — Camillus, Clay, Manlius and Otisco — have expressed their intent not to plow county roads within their town lines, starting Dec. 1. Traditionally, the county has paid the towns a base rate for snow plowing on county roads, by town workers. An initiative by County Executive Joanie Mahoney to encourage a greater use of town highway departments county-wide has shifted the responsibility to towns. The county’s goal is to have the towns take over all county roads within town-lines.

Negotiations for plowing and ice removal services between the towns and the county DOT started earlier this year, prior to contracts ending. Traditionally, the county has reimbursed the towns for costs at a flat rate per centerline mile. A centerline mile is counted as one mile of roadway, regardless of the number of lanes. It could be two, or four lanes, and the mile would be counted the same.

Negotiations brought the total offered to the towns to $6,335 per centerline mile for the snow season, with the chance of a ‘severity’ factor. That factor comes into play should the National Weather Service register more than 151 inches at Hancock International Airport. The total, with severity factor, comes to $6,967. That’s a 7 percent increase over last year’s amount: $5,910 per centerline mile.

“What we’re all trying to accomplish is find that fair, sweet spot where we’re paying for fair, appropriate costs ,but we’re not underpaying or overpaying,” said Matt Millea, deputy county executive for physical services. “That’s a challenging task to get through.”

The majority of Onondaga County towns agreed to sign a contract for this amount — it’s revenue, town supervisors have said. But four towns, and potentially DeWitt, have not agreed to the amount and are preparing letters to town residents to alert them of the change in their snow removal providers.

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