By ASHLEY HELMS
Whether or not the Village of Mamaroneck should buy its own silt removal machine to help mitigate flooding has resurfaced, but, despite some contention, the Board of Trustees may be closer to deciding the best course of action.
The village is deciding whether it should continue to contract for river dredging as other municipalities do or if it should buy its own excavator and cross-train Department of Public Works employees to operate the machine.
A dredging machine must be driven into a body of water and operates by scooping out silt from the bottom. Problem areas in the village include the Mamaroneck River by the North Barry Avenue and Fenimore Road bridges.
A concern held by some of the board members in August 2013 was where the large piece of machinery would be stored when not in use, but Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, said a local property owner offered to store the excavator. Rosenblum said he is planning to speak with the Army Corps of Engineers about what type of dredging equipment it would suggest for the village. The machines cost between $150,000 and $200,000, Rosenblum said.
According to Village Manager Richard Slingerland, an excavator could have a life span of 20 years.
Trustee Leon Potok, a Democrat, said when the village was looking into the issue last summer, the Board of Trustees said an analysis would be done in order to outline how much it would cost to buy the machine versus contracting the work out. A thorough analysis has not been done, Potok said, and he questioned why there is so much opposition to conducting such a study.
Rosenblum disagreed with the need for further analysis. He said the village needs to continue to be proactive in protecting the community against devastating flooding, which could mean taking mitigation into its own hands. Rosenblum said he is in favor of buying a machine.
“Either you want to go by what the Army Corps of Engineers is recommending and what the village has been talking about to go after the flooding problem for the last 30 or 40 years, or you can forget about it,” he said.
The question isn’t whether the village should or shouldn’t dredge, it’s how it will dredge, Potok said.
The Army Corps of Engineers would be able to figure out how much dredging the village would need to do for the next 20 years, but that’s only one piece of information village government should examine.
“I haven’t seen any information saying how much it would cost to do it internally, I’ve just heard about the cost of the machine. When you buy a car, that’s not the full cost,” Potok said.
One nearby municipality has experience owning its own dredging machine, but sold it without even really breaking it in.
The Town/Village of Harrison bought a dredging machine in 2008 to help mitigate flooding, but sold it to Woodbridge, N.J after a maximum of five uses, according to former Harrison Mayor Joan Walsh, a Democrat. She said when the machine was first brought in to dredge the eastern portion of the Mamaroneck River, which flows through Harrison, it fell over due to poor positioning in the water and a crane had to pull it out of the river.
In order to dredge, Harrison wanted to access the river through a resident’s property, but Walsh said the homeowner wouldn’t let the town do so, which caused the machine’s poor positioning in the water.
“It’s a complicated machine, so if you don’t use it, as I understand, you forget [how to],” said Walsh regarding the town’s lack of consistency with using the machine. “It was pretty much sold after this.”
The machine remained dormant for years before it was sold in 2012. The $243,000 piece of equipment, which included a trailer and attachments, was sold for only $90,000.
Trustee Ilissa Miller, a Democrat, said she was concerned about the village’s liability if it operates its own machine. The village’s track record with construction hasn’t always been stellar, she said, and a hired contractor would have insurance already; if there were any accidents, the company would be liable.
“They would have to go through all the checks and balances of operating an excavator,” she said.
Rosenblum defended the idea of purchasing and operating the machine despite liability concerns by saying it’s no different than a snow plow or truck hitting a car on the road.
Trustee Andres Bermudez Hallstrom, a Democrat, said even though operational training is provided free of charge by companies that sell excavators when one is purchased, he is concerned with overtime payments that DPW workers may receive to pick up shifts for fellow workers who are operating the dredging machine.
But Deputy Mayor Louis Santoro, a Republican, said the machine would only need to be operated a few weeks out of the year and, if DPW schedules were coordinated properly for the operation of the machine, the village wouldn’t have to worry about overtime charges.
According to the mayor, an analysis of costs for the village to buy its own machine versus contracting for the work is expected to be done by Jan. 20, which can can’t come soon enough for him.
“Let’s make a decision instead of just sitting here fooling around,” he said.