Cattaraugus County Public Works Department

Throughout the Public Works Depart­ment (PWD) of Cattaraugus County, N.Y., employees share the goal of doing jobs right the first time, Deputy Commissioner Anthony Capito says. “[We are] very responsive to getting things accomplished,” he says. For example, when the PWD coped with a flood last August, its staff performed as needed. “Our employees, without question, just did what they had to do to keep our roads open and our departments functioning,” Capito recalls.

Based in Little Valley, N.Y., the PWD maintains 403 miles of road, 265 bridges, 252 culverts and 46 drainage structures for the county. Director of Engineering Mark Burr notes that the current incarnation of the PWD was created 24 years ago from the merger of various county divisions, including highway, refuse, and buildings and grounds.

The PWD‘s operations also include the maintenance of county-owned buildings, as well as the operation of the county fairgrounds and Onoville Marina in the town of South Valley, N.Y. “We are also responsible for the maintenance of watershed dams on both sides of our county,” Commissioner David Rivet adds. “We have [many] responsibilities.”

One of the keys to the PWD’s success, Rivet says, has been its staff, including Capito and Burr. In addition, Rivet praises the PWD’s building maintenance supervisors. “They’re all outstanding individuals who really keep things going, building-wise,” he says. “They just make the job a lot easier.”

Burr adds that the PWD has been fortunate to employ several skilled technicians who have stayed with the department for many years. “They are very gifted designers,” he says. “They can work with the public very easily and 99 times out of a 100, we can come away with a good result.” One such engineer is William Fox,  who specializes in structural work. “[He is a] very dedicated [and] very technical individual,” Burr notes. 

A Wonderful Project

One past project that Rivet and Capito are proud of is the construction of the department’s headquarters in Little Valley, which was completed in 1998 on time and under budget. The facility, which spans approximately 53,000 square feet, placed nearly all of the department’s operations under one roof.

“That contains our entire fleet and road machinery maintenance operations, and our clerical staff and engineering division,” Capito says. In addition, the building’s basement houses record storage for the county clerk, attorney, court and social services.

Rivet notes that the planning for the project began in 1994, when many of the operations were scattered across six buildings. “We had [them in] buildings in Little Valley and about five miles away in the city of Salamanca, N.Y.,” he recalls.

“We were really in need of consolidation to combine our main operations under one roof and in one location,” he says. The consolidation was needed to end poor inventory control and inefficient operations of the road machinery division. 

“It took a while to convince the legislature it was necessary to build the public works facility and spend the necessary funds to do it right,” he says. “We finished off with a wonderful building.” 

Making Considerations

At the moment, Burr says, the PWD has several projects on deck, including work on County Road 46 (Hardy Corners Road) in the town of Farmersville, N.Y. This involves the recycling and rejuvenation of more than three miles of road that will cost about $1.5 million, he says. The PWD plans to complete the plans for the project in house and to bid out the pavement recycling and paving.

The department also will perform similar work on County Road 30 (Chipmunk Road) in the town of Carrollton. “[This project involves] about $2.4 million worth of type III recycling,” Burr says, noting that the PWD will place hot mix asphalt on top of the recycled pavement. 

Both projects are in rural locations, for which the PWD has to make special considerations. “Certainly, wetlands is big deal,” he says, noting that the department also has to be sensitive to the needs of local farmers during growing season.

Surviving Tough Times

The PWD is currently facing challenges with funding, Capito says. “It’s tough times,” he admits. “We are gritting our teeth because we are, in all likelihood, falling behind in our reconstruction of bridges or culverts.”

Rivet agrees. “We have more demands for our resources than we have resources,” he says. “There are more needs for repairing our road surfaces and keeping our bridge structures and culverts in safe, functional condition. [However], that’s true of everybody, with the rising taxes that people are facing. Politicians are very concerned about raising taxes, especially in a recession like we are having now. Things are also getting more expensive with each passing year, especially in the road business.”

Despite the challenges, “There’s no lack of anything to do,” he says, noting that the PWD is currently embarking on a formal pavement management system. “That should help us better layout, plan and prioritize our road pavement needs.”

In addition, ”We need to lay out what we need in the future to address our road surfaces,“ he says. “The real challenge is, as always, securing the financial resources to execute the plan.

“The bridges aren’t going to go away,” he says. “Buildings, even when they’re new, require maintenance. Older facilities, which no longer fit the needs of the county need to be replaced or refurbished.” 

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