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December 8, 2019

10/29/2019 7:30:00 AM
Panel: Oneida County in need of written bridge aid policy
'We'll know in the future how to handle it'

Brian Jopek
Lakeland Times Reporter


The Oneida County public works and highway committees approved a motion Thursday to bring a financial resolution before the county board at its Nov. 12 meeting.

The committee took the action after consulting with county finance director Darcy Smith. The resolution would authorize the expenditure of roughly $50,000 from the county's general fund in 2020 to cover costs associated with its bridge aid program and, more specifically, financial assistance to towns for culvert replacement.

However, in a phone interview with the Lakeland Times on Friday Smith said the plan had changed.

"I don't think we're going to end up doing that," she said. "I don't think there will be a resolution coming forward for funds from the general fund."

Instead, the committee will probably review different financial requests from towns at its Nov. 7 meeting, Smith explained.

"We'll discuss it then," she said. "I think what they'll probably end up doing is making a motion to levy additional dollars for all the requests that come in that they approve."

Also discussed Thursday - and what has apparently contributed to the current issues - is the county's lack of a bridge aid policy designed to cover items such as culvert replacement under which towns could apply and receive some reimbursement.

After the meeting, committee chairman Robb Jensen said a written, approved bridge aid policy needs to be in place before the county's 2021 budget hearing next year.

"We're gonna know what town requests are for bridge aid," he said. "In the past, we've just said ... $25,000 and we've taken care of it."

Jensen said what is happening is state statutes basically say there needs to be more money available to the towns from the county which would need to put that money into its budget.

"And so, when we get to August 2020, we'll know what the bridge requests are for 2021," he said. "This is one of those things where you can increase the tax levy outside of the net new construction to cover that bridge aid."

According to Jensen, if a formal bridge aid policy been in place for 2019, "we probably would have avoided having to do this."

Highway commissioner Bruce Stefonek indicated during the meeting he hasn't been able to find anything in writing as far as a county bridge aid policy.

"He can't specifically find what it is," Jensen said. "It's one of those things, you know, it's just an understanding."

The county's new bridge aid policy, he said, "would put it more in writing."

"We'll know in the future how to handle it," Jensen said. "We still have to cover 2019 costs and then we'll have some 2020 costs that the new policy doesn't cover."

Brian Jopek may be reached via email at bjopek@lakelandtimes.com.





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