Erie County and its towns and villages have reached an agreement that will keep all county-owned roads plowed this winter. They had been tussling for weeks over terms of a new contract under which the municipalities plow about half of the 1,770 roads owned by the county.
Late Wednesday morning, negotiators essentially met on the center line, agreeing to a 3 percent increase in each year of a three-year contract that starts with 2013-14.
Town highway superintendents originally came to the county in March asking for a 5 percent annual raise, the same they had received each of the past 12 years.
Noting that inflation is well under 5 percent, the county instead offered a 0.5 percent annual increase, which the highway chiefs deemed an insult.
At a news conference Wednesday, flanked by the municipalities’ negotiating team, County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz announced the deal.
“If the snow flies,” Poloncarz said, “people don’t have to worry. The roads will be plowed.”
Orchard Park Highway Superintendent Frederick J. Piasecki Jr. said they were all relieved to have a contract in hand.
“We wanted to get this done if, God forbid, something happens” – meaning snow – “in October,” he said.
Last year, the county paid municipalities $3,393 per lane-mile, or about $4.5 million.
Timothy C. Callan, Erie County deputy budget director, said the new agreement will save the county about $100,000 each year. He added that although payments to the municipalities for plowing have practically doubled since 2000, having the county take over the roads was not a good economic option.
“The county executive was not interested in the county taking back this responsibility,” Callan said.
Once the contract language is finalized, it will go to the County Legislature and each municipality for approval.