Pothole problems

It’s not often that a resident of the city of Dunkirk attends one of the daytime Common Council committee meetings.

McKinley Avenue resident Don Horton did attend the Monday afternoon meeting of council’s Public Works Committee and wanted to know when a pothole at the corner of McKinley Avenue and Sixth Street will be taken care of.

“Since last summer I’ve been trying to get potholes filled on McKinley Avenue, I have not been successful. I called Councilman Rivera last summer and asked that they be filled. Nothing happened,” Horton stated. “I called the city engineer’s office this spring to report the holes, nothing happened, A couple weeks ago I spoke with (Councilwoman Stacy Szukala) about it again and … you filled some holes from Sixth Street to Fourth Street. However, from Sixth to Lucas there’s still a bunch of holes, Nobody filled those.

“Beyond that, a water break main last winter left a giant hole sitting at the corner of Sixth and McKinley that hasn’t been attended to. My street is a bus run. … It seems to me, you can correct me if I’m wrong, there doesn’t seem to be any priority to stay with the holes.”

Horton said he goes online and reads the daily postings of the DPW schedule.

“Guys are sick, guys are off. I sympathize with the department. Maybe it’s a manpower issue, maybe it is,” he added. “It looks like the month of July holes don’t get done because we’re picking up brush. So does that mean we’re into August before we fill holes?

“I’d like an answer. I’d like to know when the holes on my street get fixed?”

Department of Public Works Director Tony Gugino replied that McKinley got quite a bit of patching last year, but like other streets, the winter took a toll.

“I will agree with you that when I did request a pre-emptive special situation to get men in here after their normal hours where we do the mundane, daily duties, we could have had all these water break patches done by June,” Gugino continued. “We’ve been knocking them off between all our other duties, knocking them off with this limited crew and my one guy in water maintenance. We’ve done quite well considering. Until I’m relieved and can cut loose and attack this the way I want to, I can’t give you a deadline on when you will get yours done.”

Gugino said himself, Streets Supervisor Mike Porpiglia and City Engineer Randy Woodbury are aware of the pothole problems. Gugino added he would make the Sixth and McKinley pothole a priority, but when it will get fixed is uncertain.

Discussion turned to other problem road areas in the city, including the corner of Main and Williams streets, with Porpiglia explaining water is coming to the surface, leading to ice in the winter and eroding the asphalt in the road. Water is also an issue on Sixth Street near Dunkirk High School, as the culvert carrying Crooked Brook under the street is starting to fail, causing erosion concerns. Porpiglia said he is working with the school district’s Tim Abbey on a fix.

Horton called for a crew to work on Saturdays to get the work done before winter. Szukala explained Mayor Anthony J. Dolce authorizes overtime, not council.

“I still think if you can get the mayor to OK a Saturday and if that’s the way you feel you need to do it and you’re OK in your budget line,” she told Gugino.

Gugino said his overtime budget line is at 21 percent expended for the year.

“We’ve got plenty of available dollars to throw at crews, several crews if they choose to,” he added.

The list of streets that will be paved was discussed, with DPW officials showing a map with proposed paving areas. A list will be released once it is finalized.

A big part of the problem DPW officials pointed out is manpower. At its peak, the streets and barns crews numbered some 50 workers. Porpiglia added when he became a supervisor in 2000 there were 32 workers. Currently, there are 14 DPW workers available to work on streets and other repairs, although six are tied up nine of every 10 days in a two-week period with trash or recycling pickup.

The DPW schedule for Monday published on the city’s website listed 21 workers, including seasonal hires. Of that number, 12 were picking up recycling or brush with another three doing other jobs, two were on vacation, one was sick and one out on comp. In addition, the posting noted the city will be without a maintenance mechanic for two weeks and an automotive mechanic for one week, both before the first full week of August.

Under curbs and gutters, the schedule asks people to notice the accumulated weed growth and sediment along curb lines and receivers. “This is going to become a major problem in the very near future. Our street sweeper sits idle due to a lack of qualified workers,” the notice states.

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