By Kellen M. Quigley
Tensions were high in the Morton’s Corners Volunteer Fire Company hall as nearly 100 community members in the audience demanded Erie County fix its roads in the town of Concord.
Erie County Legislator John Mills teamed up with Fire Chief Steve Bugary and the fire company to host a community meeting to discuss the poor condition of Zoar Valley, Trevett and Groth Roads with William Geary, Commissioner of the Erie County Department of Public Works.
Daniel J. Neaverth, Jr., Commissioner of the county’s Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Services, Erie County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw Jr. and Peter Anderson, Press Secretary to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, also attended the meeting.
“It’s bad,” said Mills of Zoar Valley Road in his opening comments. “It’s been bad for the 14 years I have been your legislator.”
Mills said the Zoar Valley area is a destination for people across the country to come to Erie County, and right now there isn’t a safe road into the valley in Concord.
“The Commissioner tells me hopefully next year we’re going to be starting construction on Trevett Road, and that’s wonderful,” he said. “But we’re not getting the bang for our buck.”
Recent milling and paving on Groth Road was also not enough, Mills said, as no drainage work was planned, which is the root of the problem in that area.
“We have got to get a plan in place with the administration and DPW to fix this work,” he said. “It’s a terrible road and we should be embarrassed to have these roads in Erie County.”
Many people in attendance said after over a decade of problems and the road being closed for two years, waiting until next year is not good enough.
“I don’t want to be back here in another year 50 percent madder,” one said. “If you say Trevett’s going to be 2020, say it, put it in writing, put it on the website. We’ll hold you accountable.”
Fire Chief Bugary said he’s been reaching out to local officials for nearly two years to fix and reopen the roads with little progress. He said the effect it has on the fire department and ambulances getting to people in trouble is life-threatening, taking 17 minutes to get to a recent fire that could have been reached in a few minutes had the roads been open.
“Trevett Road is a big shortcut for our fire company,” he said. “We started this whole process to get Trevett Road fixed, and now we’re bringing on Groth Road and Zoar Valley Road. It seems like I spend more time on these roads than I do with my family.”
Commissioner Geary said there have been plans in the works to fix the roads since 2018 with construction expected on the roads in 2020. He said it’s about $1.2 million to fix the 450 feet of Trevett Road that’s closed and $400,000 to do preliminary work on Groth Road.
“We have to address every option that’s out there available to us,” he said. “The do-nothing option has been taking place for the past 20 years. It’s unacceptable. The options we’re looking at is something we can afford.”
Several people in attendance questioned if the roads have been bad for so long, why the county is only addressing them now. Geary said the county has plans in place for every road in Erie County and the process to fix these three roads is underway.
Others in attendance noted that the banks of the creek near Zoar Valley Road have been eroding away for years. Geary said the county would work with Erie County Soil & Water Conservation on finding a plan to keep that from continuing.
For funding the project, there was discussion of looking for help outside of just the county by reaching out to the state and federal levels for emergency funding.
“We’ve been talking with the federal government to get the funds directly to us because we know we can get these projects out faster,” Geary said.
Commissioner Neaverth said he plans to take everything he heard at the meeting and put additional emphasis on getting the project done, but he added that the project is in the works and needs the support of all entities to move forward sooner.
“We talk about moving at the speed of government,” he said. “There has to be some understanding in regards to the process. It can’t happen overnight because of all the requirements in there.”
For more information on the latest in closed roads and project lists in Erie County, visit http://www2.erie.gov/dpw/.