The Warren County paving crew works mid-summer to repair Library Avenue in Warrensburg. This in-house paving team is credited for saving taxpayers many thousands of dollars, as well as fast completion of work rebuilding roads from the summer’s devastating storms.
Warren County Superintendent of Public Works Jeff Tennyson glanced out a window at the county Municipal Center at sunny blue skies.
“If the weather stays like this through Mid-December, we’ll be in good shape,” he quipped.
For several months, the county has endured storms more violent and damaging than has been experienced in the region for hundreds of years.
Warren County’s roads —which suffered considerable damage from the heavy Memorial Day weekend rains, then three months later from Tropical Storm Irene — will be safe and sound by this winter, Tennyson predicted Monday Sept. 26.
Damage to county and town government infrastructure, including roadways and bridges, totalled about $13 million for Memorial Day weekend alone, according to county Emergency Services Coordinator Amy Drexel. Federal financial help for these damages has been rejected, but is still under discussion.
County highways, totalling 247 miles, suffered more than $5 million in damages from both storms, Tennyson said. Most all damage was created by swollen streams that turned into raging rivers and washed out culverts and roadways.
Most of the damage has been repaired, either temporarily or permanently. The county has documented $4 million in damage from the historic Memorial Day weekend storms, in which 7 inches of rain fell in several hours. Most of the damage occurred in Thurman, Causing $7 million in damage there to the town’s local roadways. Tropical Storm Irene caused another $1 million in damages to the town roads, Thurman town Supervisor Evelyn Wood said.
In rebuilding roadways and bridges from that storm, county crews worked for five weeks to help Thurman’s highway crew, Tennyson said. These four county crews worked long hours, adjusting their schedules and tasks as the weather events occurred, he said.
The follow-up assault by Irene delayed some repairs and routine paving that had been resumed by county highway crews after the storm response. It also disrupted the scheduling of contractors to repair infrastructure, Tennyson said.
This week, a county crew was able to get back to rebuilding and resurfacing Potter Brook Road in Northern Warrensburg.
The work includes new culverts and drainage ditches, and in some stretches, new road-beds.
Tennyson noted that county-owned bridges held up well under the onslaught of water from the storms.
“There was no significant bridge damage,” he said.
One reason the bridges withstood the storm stress was preventative work on bridges accomplished earlier this year, he said. One example is the Hudson Street Bridge in Johnsburg, where the county crews restored abutments damaged by scouring in April, then poured concrete shields for these bridge supports to handle heavy water flows.
In rebuilding after the summer storms, the county has been upgrading culverts and roadside drainage to accommodate heavier stormwater flows, he said.
Many of the culverts replaced are smooth heavy-duty plastic, rather than corrugated metal or concrete, and debris passes through easier, so they are less likely to plug up and cause a road washout, Tennyson said.
In some cases, the county —— on the advice of their own engineers — has devised a new way to handle those 200-year storms.
County workers are not only replacing culverts and re-aligning streams, but in some locations they are installing secondary culverts nearby that can handle overflow if the primary culvert gets overwhelmed or plugged with debris, Tennyson said.
One reason the county has been able to recover from the storm quickly — and not bust the budget — has been that the county operates its own paving crew. Having an in-house crew means more flexible re-scheduling as well as pay rates that are far lower than prevailing premium labor rates that contractors charge.