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April 26, 2012

 

City up in the air on traffic light upkeep

Dept. that does maintenance down to 1 employee as contracting work out considered

By MATTHEW NOJIRI
Staff Reporter
mnojiri@cortlandstandardnews.net

The city is pondering its options for painting its roads and crosswalks and maintaining its traffic signals, as it considers dissolving the department that handles those functions.
The city’s Department of Public Safety has handled traffic signal maintenance and repairs and street striping. The department has typically had three employees over the years, but is down to just one employee after two retirements since 2010.
The lone employee, Tom Tobin, still works in the Public Safety Department and has to be available around the clock to handle traffic signal maintenance. Tom Tobin is not related to Mayor Brian Tobin.
In a memo to the city Common Council, Director of Administration and Finance Mack Cook said the tentative plan is for Tobin to move to the code office to do electrical inspections, but that plan has been delayed as the city figures out what to do with its traffic signal maintenance and street painting work.
Cook said the city has a few options to provide those services.
It can restaff the Public Safety Department with two or three people, transfer its responsibilities to the city’s Public Works Department or contract with private companies or local municipalities for the service, Cook said.
Chris Bistocchi, Department of Public Works superintendent, said no plans have been made to transfer the public safety duties to his department.
The city has talked about disbanding the Public Safety Department since 2010 in an effort to save money.
Cook said hiring employees for the Public Safety Department or training public works employees might not be “cost effective” in terms of work load and training requirements.
He said the city is leaning toward contracting with private companies or seeing if another municipality would join it in contracting for street services.
There have been at least two street light outages in recent months, and Cook said the city needs to handle street light maintenance issues quickly to protect drivers and pedestrians on the road.
The city has prepared but not released a request for proposals to find out how expensive it would be to contract for traffic signal maintenance and street painting. The city’s Public Safety Department had a $262,000 budget when it had three employees in 2010.
Cook said the city Police Department is also assessing the conditions of the streets and crosswalks throughout the city.
Mayor Tobin said the city had not decided how it wants to handle the services, but said it would likely require a mix of contracting with private companies and finding city departments that could absorb some of the work.
“Before the end of the year, we’ll have a lot of these things resolved,” Tobin said.

 

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