September 28, 2021

Cleanup, repairs on track

Kevin Conlon/city editor

Cortland County highway workers excavate the side of Song Mountain Road in Preble on Tuesday, a week after a hillside collapsed during repairs from a previous storm.

Work to repair damage caused by a hillside collapse that closed a Preble road last week could finish today with further mitigation work potentially finishing by the end of the week.

Cortland County Highway Superintendent Charles Sudbrink told county legislators Tuesday at a Highway Committee meeting that a second landslide last week after an August storm led to an unstable hillside and Song Mountain Road’s closure Sept. 7 to through traffic.

“We still have a large crew up there working on that — it’s been about a month now — and at the beginning of last week we had another landslide and had to shut the road down again,” he said. “Hopefully tomorrow we’ll have that cleaned up.”

Sudbrink said about 500 truck loads of debris had been removed since the closure last week, on top of another 400 to 500 loads of debris caused by the storm in August.

He said he had spoken with state Office of Emergency Management employees last week and was meeting with Federal Emergency Management Agency workers later Tuesday to discuss mitigation plans.

“Hopefully, we have it dug back far enough that any future landslides — worstcase scenario — come down and plug the stream,” he said. “But the landslide last week actually pushed the excavator and dump truck across the road. The guys were working when it happened, but it’s very unstable up there. Hopefully, by the end of the week, we’ll have it back far enough where it’s no longer a hazard.”

No details were given on when the road might be reopened.

Highway Department foreman Scott Guy said Tuesday afternoon that work was underway a week earlier when a 60- to 80-foot-tall hillside began to give way.

“We were right in there working,” Guy said at the worksite. “I ran up the hill (on the road) and yelled to the operator as soon as I saw it start to move.”

A 5-foot wall of dirt hit the vehicles, but there were no injuries, he said.

The collapse delayed the cleanup project a week.

Work was being done in the same area where erosion-prevention materials and a new guardrail were being installed over the summer from a storm around Halloween in 2019 that washed away parts of the road’s embankment, Alan Ricottill, the engineering and maintenance supervisor with the County Highway Department, said in July.

That work was scheduled to be completed in August. It was unclear if that work was lost last week.

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City Editor Kevin Conlon contributed to this report.