Erie County's final offer for snowplowing reimbursement to localities today gained support from two key groups.
The Erie County Association of Governments and the county Association of Highway Supervisors voted unanimously to accept the county's offer of $1,300 per lane mile to keep county roads clear of snow and ice this winter.
It's now up to the county's 25 town and village boards to accept or reject the boards' recommendation and sign individual contracts with the county for plowing services.
The move comes despite indications that some upstate metropolitan counties pay their towns substantially higher rates to plow roads than Erie County's current offer.
Payment, per lane mile, is almost $1,800 in Monroe County, $1,900 in Onondaga and an average of $2,100 in Niagara.
Erie County has offered to raise its payments by about $200, to $1,300.
County Executive Gorski said that comparing Erie County's rate with that of other counties is unfair.
"We pay a flat rate whether it is 80 degrees outside or 26 below zero," he said.
With 1,100 county lane miles -- the distance plowed in one lane and back in the other -- Gorski said, Erie County also has the largest number of lane miles of any county in the state.
Elma Supervisor John DiJoseph, spokesman for the local government group, said he expects most localities to accept the $1,300, but not without reservation.
"We voted to take the $1,300, but very reluctantly. We thought it was the best we could do for now and we'll start talks to boost it up for 1991-92, right after the first of the year," he said.
In recent weeks, 20 of the 25 municipalities that plow the 1,100 lane miles of county roads, went on record refusing to accept less than $1,500 per lane mile for their plowing, sanding and salting services. Those votes will now have to be rescinded.
The situation may be a bit trickier in the Town of North Collins, where the board has gone on record refusing to rescind its stand of $1,500 or no plowing. North Collins officials could not be reached to comment, but DiJoseph said it's possible the town will continue its refusal to plow county roads.
"We can't tell them what to do. It's possible they'll hold out and there could be others that feel they just can't afford to go out on county roads for any less than $1,500," DiJoseph said.
In Monroe County, where Rochester is located, Public Works Director Thomas Low said the county and towns have been operating on a lump-sum agreement for the past several years, allowing both parties to predict their costs accurately each year.
"It's worked well for us, and we're looking to fine-tune it even more," he said. The $2.5 million contract works out to $1,781 per lane mile, substantially higher than even the new figure for Erie County.
In Onondaga County, where Syracuse is located, the plowing costs have jumped from $1,800 per lane mile to $1,900, according to Kenneth Osborn, deputy commissioner of the county Department of Transportation.
"But we're still looking for the ideal plan, and we haven't found it yet," he said.
Farther east, Oneida County, where Utica and Rome are located, pays $800 per lane mile, said Michael Zane, deputy commissioner of highways and bridges. And in Rensselaer County, where Troy is located, county trucks plow many town roads and no payments are exchanged, according to Deputy County Engineer Ralph Colongione. The county, instead, supplies the towns with salt and sand for use on its roads.
Even that system will be scrapped next year, Colongione said, when state, county and town crews will be responsible for their own stretches of highway.
"The cost has been astronomical," he said, "so we're just going to have to cut it back."
But John C. Loffredo, Erie County public works commissioner, said the county's agreement with the state to plow state roads works out to about $2,200 per lane mile in heavy winters.
He also said figures from Niagara County indicate an average cost just north of Erie County at about $2,100.
"Where I differ with the towns is that their vehicles are already driving on the roads," he said. "The only additional cost is to lower the plow and spread the sand, along with some additional time."