Sinkholes signal deep trouble

Winter is long gone, but infrastructure worries continue to mount around the region.

This past Monday, Dunkirk resident Don Horton attended a Public Works committee meeting to complain – like many other online commenters and residents – about the poor condition of the city roads. Dotted with potholes, motorists are still paying a price for the harsh and bitter conditions.

Dunkirk is not alone. Fredonia’s roads are just as treacherous. If you do not believe us, ask the Fire Department trainee who was driving one of the trucks when it became stuck in a pothole last month at Ventura Circle and Johnson Street.

It is not a laughing matter.

And even when work is being done to repair the streets, other problems continue below. Sinkholes are continuing to become evident on Central Avenue in the city. One sinkhole became so bad in the spring, it closed a portion of the road for about four days between Albany Avenue to West Green Street.

That problem has been fixed, but others remain. This week, city workers were tending to another sinkhole on Fairview Avenue. It was more than a one-day job. Other sinkhole work, however, remains to be unscheduled.

One of those locations may be on Main Street near East Sixth Street, in front of the residence of William and Lisandra Pagan. A sinkhole on a plot of land, where Main Street was formerly located, is growing. Each month, a trash can placed on the land goes deeper into the ground.

Compounding the problem, William Pagan says, is each time it rains, water fills up in the Pagans’ basement.

Plumbers have not been able to repair the problem and Pagan said he called many city officials, but has not received any satisfaction in the situation. He, and his neighbor, Alan Mazany, believe the sinkhole started after work began on Talcott Street for the Millennium Parkway. The two figure the already vulnerable system may not have been able to take the pounding, leading to a broken pipe somewhere underground.

“They keep telling me it’s my problem,” said Pagan, who will be losing his job when Carriage House closes its operation in Fredonia in the coming months.

But Dunkirk’s Department of Public Works has its hands full. During Monday’s meeting, it was noted the department had 32 workers when Tony Gugino became supervisor in 2000. This year, Gugino said, there are currently 14 – and six are tasked with trash and recycling duties most days.

Fredonia’s numbers are nearly similar. According to this year’s first village budget proposal, 16 employees work in the department. However, those employees do not deal with trash and recycling pickup.

Upstate cities have been in a recession since the 1980s. With businesses and residents moving other regions where an economy is not a problem, municipal budgets have continued to grow allowing taxes to increase.

To cut down on the already high costs, annual infrastructure maintenance gets postponed and usually takes place only in emergencies.

For those affected daily by the problems, it is disheartening. “We’re struggling right now,” Lisandra Pagan said.

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.