December 2, 2021

County works on culvert fix

Road in Taylor remains closed after washout in October

Kevin Conlon/city editor

This part of Taylor Valley Road in Taylor has been unusable since floods Nov. 1 washed out a culvert. But a plan to replace the culvert faces more delays a flood mitigation plan isn’t soon completed to get federal funds for the work.

Cortland County Legislators must approve a resolution this month to purchase a box culvert that would take about two months to build in order to fix a closed road in Taylor or face the possibility of not reopening the road this year.

The culvert on Taylor Valley Road was washed out when a storm hit the county on Halloween night in 2019.

The storm sent the Tioughnioga and Otselic rivers over their banks, washed out a couple of roads and forced the county to declare a state of emergency.

“Originally it was an 8-foot by 13-foot pipe under the road,” Charlie Sudbrink, the county highway superintendent, told legislators during a Highway Committee meeting Tuesday. “The flood not only washed over the road, but under the pipe. We tried to temporarily repair it by back-filling it and compacting it and it took about a month for it to start washing out again because it’s eroding from underneath.”

But Sudbrink said the issue lies in the county finding the money to pay for the project first and then be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency later.

“This is money we’re going to get back?” asked Legislator Richard Stock (D-Cortland).

“Yes, but we’ve got to have it to put it out there and I’m not sure of the state of the county right now,” Sudbrink said.

The county projects significant revenue shortfalls because of the coronavirus.

However, the other tricky part of the process is that the county doesn’t know the total cost of the project because FEMA is still working with the county on a mitigation plan to make sure the washout won’t happen again.

The mitigation process must be done in order to get 100% reimbursement, Sudbrink said.

FEMA, which must approve the final design, hasn’t because the mitigation plan isn’t complete.

The county is looking at $150,000 to $200,000 in material costs, Sudbrink said, noting personnel is already budgeted for.

“We can discuss trying to get cash flow information out,” said County Administrator Rob Corpora. “Once we have that, we’ll be able to determine that we do have enough cash to float that.”

Adding to the complexity is that the county can’t wait until July to move ahead with purchasing the culvert. Sudbrink said building the culvert would take about eight weeks and cost $65,000.

“What is the urgency to get started on it this year?” Corpora asked.

“We really need to get started on it this year — a road is closed,” Sudbrink said. “It’s a fairly heavily traveled road.”

If the county must wait until July to buy the culvert, it won’t be delivered until August or September. The state Department of Environmental Conservation will allow the county to work in the river only until mid-October.

“So we may be pushing it,” Sudbrink said. “A resolution needs to happen to order the box culvert so that it can get into the building phase.”

The committee voted, 6-0, to refer the matter to the Budget and Finance Committee where a resolution will be brought forth for the project on Tuesday.

“The road is closed, so it’s not doing anybody any good and we have to fix it, so the sooner the better,” said Highway Committee Chairman Christopher Newell (R-Cortlandville).