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ORCHARD PARK STORM TAB FOR OVERTIME IS $84,000

Police and plow driver overtime for the first 20 days of January is estimated at $84,000 in the Town of Orchard Park.

Yet streets are still reduced to one lane, and most of the town's 1,400 fire hydrants remain buried under feet of dense, ice-packed snow.

"There is no way our Water Department can keep up," Town Engineer Michael Merritt told the Town Board Wednesday night.

"We mark each hydrant with a six-foot pole, but those are buried, in some places. It would be a good idea for people in neighborhoods to locate those hydrants and dig them out. It would protect them in the event of a fire."

Residents have been doing just that, according to Marvin Ashburn of Benning Road.

"My doctor won't allow me to shovel anymore, so my wife, at 75, went out and dug out the hydrant across from our house, and then the town plow came by and buried it," he said.

Ashburn claimed that Highway Superintendent Ronald Geitter, who lives down the road, never has his hydrant buried because town crews dig it out.

Geitter responded: "Plows are set to clear roads. What do you want us to do? Stop and back up when we get to a hydrant or driveway?"

Town crews have seldom been blamed as much as private plow services who clear driveways and push the snow to the street or a neighbor's driveway. Despite a break in the weather, police still get such complaints.

"It may be time for us to stop subsidizing private plow operators by removing what they put in the streets," Ashburn said. "Maybe we should license them and fine them if they do that."

Councilwoman Nan Ackerman said Geitter's crews "did yeoman work and were able to help out village crews when their equipment was buried in the snow-caused collapse of the village equipment barn.

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