Rickety E. Chatham bridge set for upgrade

CHATHAM – Work is scheduled to start on replacing the Albany Turnpike Bridge in East Chatham September 2 and should be finished by sometime before Thanksgiving. The bridge project, announced at the monthly Town Board meeting last week, will be paid for by CSX, the railroad company that owns the bridge and the tracks below the bridge.

An Albany Avenue resident who attended the August 15 meeting said that she has seen several large trucks and a moving van go over the narrow, aging bridge, which has a 3-ton limit. “It’s scary,” she said of crossing the bridge.

Supervisor Jesse DeGroodt said that the new bridge will have a 10-ton limit and only one lane for vehicles, with a pedestrian walkway. As for overweight trucks, Mr. DeGroodt said he has asked the town’s resident deputy to have the Sheriff’s Office monitor traffic on the bridge. “They have written numerous tickets,” he said.

The resident also asked whether  traffic light could be installed that could slow traffic on the bridge near the intersection of Albany Avenue and state Route 295 when it is reopened. Mr. DeGoodt said the board has looked into that option and a traffic light would be a huge expense for the town.

He also said he was told that if the town went to the state Department of

Transportation (DOT) about a request to slow traffic at the bridge, the agency would most likely propose creating a traffic circle to deal with the issue. But the supervisor said that though it would be expensive, “If we have to put a light in, we’ll put at light in.”

For the time being, as the bridge deteriorates Mr. DeGroodt said he will make sure the police are informed, though he stressed officers can’t be at the bridge day and night. The only other alternative would be to close the bridge before construction starts.

Last week the board also heard a report from Matthew VanDerbeck from PKHB, an accounting service that recently conducted an audit of the town. Mr. VanDerbeck told the board, “The information was good shape and the controller did a good job.”

He raised a few points of concern, mainly in how much the town has in fund balance and reserve accounts. “You set aside more than I expect you have to set aside,” he told the board.

“We do budget conservatively,” Mr. DeGroodt said, adding that of the total of about $700,000 that the board has in reserve, $560,000 is distributed among different accounts specific to parts of the budget that have different revenue streams. “We’re not just talking about one big chunk of money,” he said.

To a question from board member Bob Balcom, who asked whether it would be more helpful to do more frequent audits, Mr. VanDerbeck suggested conducting one every 3 to 5 years. The audit discussed last week covered one year of town finances and Mr. VanDerbeck pointed out that it was the first one done in ten years.

Former town Controller Earl Kelsey said at the meeting that he has asked the board over the years to take a more active interest in town finances and that the current comptroller, Debbie Cesternino, is available to answer questions. “Nobody has a closed door here,” he said.

In other business last week, the board:

*Officially changed the name of Zaenglein Road to Whittemore Road, since Clint Whittemore’s house is the only one on the road and the Zaenglein family is no long in the town

*Approved a proposal from the clerk’s office to sell Easy Pass devices. The town receive $4 on all sales of the $25 devices.

The next board meeting will be Thursday, September 19.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

 

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