Right now, as I write, the City of Newburgh is in it most recent state of emergency. This time it is the mother of all snowstorms. The Acting City Manager Herbek is AWOL. Platt of the Water Department is AWOL. And George Garrison, the head of DPW, is neck deep in whiteness.
Garrison is left to run a city, plow the streets and coordinate an impending disaster by himself. I have a lot of confidence in Garrision, but I think it would be best if he could handle one crisis at a time.
During my campaign for County Legislator last year, I became aware that the County of Orange would no longer be plowing Broadway. I made it an issue of concern and did a little research on how the City of Newburgh lost this very important perk from the County.
This is the story as reported from reliable sources:
First as background, you should know that the County found the funding to pave Broadway in 1996. Then Mayor Audrey Carey and City Manager Harry Porr were going head to head about who should take credit. I will give the credit to Carey because she seemed to have a better rapport with then County Executive Joseph Rampe. The funds were available through a Federal Program and Carey did lobby for it. So we got Broadway paved. Amen.
Next, there was a suggestion to have this main corridor plowed on an annual basis. This was no doubt a big perk from the County that typically looked at Newburgh as a cross-eyed, red-haired stepchild. But behold, it happened. The County agreed to help Newburgh by paving Broadway for 10 years. I believe this was in 1996 also.
Ten years pass, and now my friend, Ed Diana, is County Executive. Diana loves Newburgh. He is the main politician behind moving the Department of Motor Vehicle to Broadway and establishing the County Building there as well. Diana was also the main proponent of putting SUNY Orange in downtown Newburgh.
When the 10-year agreement to plow Broadway ended, Diana extended the process. For the past three years, the County kept a plow machine down at the Newburgh DPW on Pierces Road. They drove a driver over to that machine and efficiently plowed Broadway. Sometimes they used several operators depending on the snowfall. This arrangement cost the County money while Newburgh saved a big expense in manpower hours.
But this year, the County ended the plowing. It fell apart last year during a meeting with City and County officials about SUNY Orange. Then City Manager McGrane and Mayor Valentine proposed a park in front of the college of Broadway and other perks. It was not in the plans and would have added an extra expense for the projects. The County got sick of being hen-pecked by this duo and decided to pull back. At that meeting, it was decided that Newburgh was on its own. And the plowing of Broadway was discontinued.
This is what happens when children bite the hands that feed them; they lose some benefits. And when politicians bite their benefactors, we all suffer.
Last fall, I asked George Garrison if his department could handle plowing Broadway and the side streets. He gave me the confidence that his boys could do it. I don't think he anticipated this level of snowfall in such a short period of time. Nor did he expect to have the weight of the entire city on his shoulders either.