Town officials are faced with scheduling a much-needed drainage project on Mill Hill Road so it causes the least impact to stores and restaurants during a busy summer tourism season.
From Maple Lane east to Ferguson Creek just before the Woodstock Playhouse, a slot runs the length of Mill Hill Road on both sides. Those slots open into corrugated pipes that, when installed in 1978, were designed to carry stormwater into the creek.
The pipes have all but rusted away and the drains frequently clog, causing sheets of water to flow downhill. Adding to the safety concern, motorists have dealt with a jaw-rattling ride on that section of road because of the slots and crumbling concrete surrounding it.
The plan is to replace this non-functional drain infrastructure with square catch basins on the sides feeding into a 36-inch pipe down the middle of Mill Hill Road.
It is being funded from $3 million granted to the town from the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery as part of efforts to bolster infrastructure in the wake of Hurricane Irene.
The problem is construction can’t happen in the winter, so it falls in the middle of the busy season for retailers and restaurants. Business owners want work to be done this year rather than in 2019, the 50th anniversary of the famous Woodstock concert.
“One of the first decisions was to work at night,” said Dennis Larios, president of Brinnier & Larios P.C., the engineering firm that will coordinate the timetable. Construction will take place Sundays through Thursdays in eight-hour shifts in a window between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. It is expected to take three months to complete. Night construction is more expensive, but the town and engineering firm agreed it’s the only time to work and keep the road open in the daytime and allow businesses to stay open.
So when will this happen? That’s still up for discussion. Restaurant owners want to make sure access isn’t restricted during a crucial nine-week period from July 4 through Labor Day.
Trying to accommodate everyone is challenging enough without another hurdle by way of a 24-inch City of Kingston water main installed in the 1920s just below the surface on the north shoulder. The cast iron pipe is the only means to carry water from Cooper Lake to Kingston. Why not replace it while the street is excavated? The city is not in a financial position to pay for it, so it’s rather low on the priority list.
“Work has to be done in a very careful manner so we don’t disturb this water main,” said Brinnier & Larios Senior Project Engineer Joe Mihm.
With all that in mind, the contract for work will insist one lane remain open at night during construction hours and everything needs to be covered or have plates placed over it so two lanes can open during the day. Crews will work on 60 feet of road at a time with about 100-150 feet being restricted from traffic. Work involving the creek has to be done after May 1 per DEC regulations to minimize impact on fish.
Peter Cantine spoke on behalf of Landau Grill owner Jon Rothkopf, whose business is at the western end of the project. Cantine said he is very familiar with the seasonal aspect of businesses in this town, having managed The Bear Cafe for 27 years. “The true high season is the weeks from July 4 to Labor Day,” Cantine said. “The restaurants depend on their survival from these nine weeks” to carry them through the rest of the year. In the off-season, “it’s how little can we lose this week,” he said, suggesting splitting the project in two phases to work around the nine-week peak.
Betty Choi, co-owner of Silvia, the restaurant the recently opened in the former Joyous Lake, said a major disruption could spell the end for them. “Summer is very important to us,” she said, urging engineers and the town to push the project to a time that works for all the merchants.
While the project will only affect 100-150 feet at a time, Choi is concerned people will learn about the construction and go to another town. Silvia partners are also concerned about noise and fumes making their new deck, a key attraction for the restaurant, practically unusable unless construction starts after the restaurant closes at 10 p.m.
Councilman Richard Heppner suggested a September-November timeframe, but Mihm said that can be cutting it close since asphalt plants shut town in early November depending on weather. Supervisor Bill McKenna said the town and engineers will continue to work with the business community to minimize the impact.
One possibility is to complete part of the project before July 4, then the rest either in the fall or the next spring. That can be done either by splitting it into two projects for bidding, or requiring the split times in the contract.
Cemetery plot owners are here to help
Iris York asked the Town Board to recognize a newly formed Woodstock Cemetery Advisory Board and agreed to be chair if so appointed. “Our mission is to protect the plot owners,” said York of the group that was formed after the town took ownership of Woodstock Cemetery. The Woodstock Cemetery Association relinquished control to the town in December after failed attempts to maintain solvency.
York urged the Town Board to consider and submit a wish list of items, which can be funded by the state Division of Cemeteries to assist municipalities, which are legally required to take over abandoned cemeteries.
Among the items needed are a backhoe dedicated to the cemetery. Right now, the cemetery’s is in such poor shape, it must borrow one. York said it is important to have such equipment at the ready. “In any given year, you can have up to 100 burials,” she said.
Sorely needed is a grave heater, which is used to help dig graves when the ground is frozen. “It’s old, dangerous and could blow up at any time,” York said.
There are a number of trees that need to be trimmed or removed to not endanger visitors or headstones. And there are sections of fencing that need replacing where trees have fallen, she added, and four stone pillars at the entrance that need attention, as well as all the roads on the property.
York said someone should be available to show people the property before selling gravesites, coordinate burials and keep an eye on vandals. In advocating for Shea Cocks to stay on as superintendent, York said it is important to have a “full-time, on-site, caring and compassionate person.” York recommended Cocks continue to live on the property rent-free as he had for 17 years. But McKenna said that is against the law.
The Town Board will consider officially recognizing the Woodstock Cemetery Advisory Board at a later meeting.
But the Board voted to lease the house at 41 Elwyn Lane to Shea and Melissa Cocks for $700 per month. McKenna said it would be better if the town could sell the house and Cocks could make a bid, but this was the best solution in the interim.
Asked why Cocks couldn’t continue to stay rent-free, McKenna explained people cannot legally live on town property free of charge.
Leasing of town land is subject to permissive referendum, which gives the public 30 days to submit a petition demanding the town to hold a public vote on the matter much like a bond issue. If no petitions are received, the Town Board votes to make the lease official.
Please keep your sidewalks clear
“Merchants have to keep their sidewalks ice- and snow-free,” McKenna said in response to numerous complaints over the past weekend about impassable sidewalks. The Town Code allows the Maintenance Department to clear obstructed sidewalks and bill property owners for the work, McKenna said.
“We’re asking for cooperation from all the property owners,” said McKenna, who noted dangerous conditions open the town to lawsuits whether or not the sidewalk is on town property and it costs taxpayer money to defend against them.
With a few exceptions, owners of abutting property are responsible for their section of sidewalk and must have it cleared within 24 hours after it stops snowing. McKenna said salt is available free of charge at the town highway garage.
“Within 24 hours after cessation of every fall of snow or the formation of any ice on the sidewalk abutting the premises, the owner or occupant shall remove or cause the same to be removed or cleared entirely from said sidewalk to a minimum width of 48 inches where circumstances permit,” reads Chapter 197 of the Town Code.
“If the snow or ice shall be frozen so hard that it cannot practicably be removed, the owner or occupant shall, within the time above specified, cause the sidewalk to be covered and strewn with salt, ashes, sand or other dissolving or disintegrating material and shall, as soon thereafter as the weather will permit, thoroughly clean the sidewalk and remove the ice and snow therefrom.”