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Louisville Town Board reverses course, will pave shoulder on River Road

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LOUISVILLE - Five days made all the difference for a shoulder widening project on Wilson Hill’s River Road.

The town council initially voted against blacktopping a three-foot shoulder along the River Road at its regularly scheduled meeting last Wednesday, 3-2. Councilmen Daniel O’Keefe, Patrick Carroll and Roy “Slim” Beshaw were initially opposed to the project, with Supervisor Larry R. Legault and Councilwoman M. Gail Schneider in favor.

“None of the other roads in town have paved shoulders,” Mr. Beshaw said at Wednesday’s meeting.

But at a special town council meeting Monday night, the board reversed its decision and voted 4-0 to blacktop the shoulder. Mr. O’Keefe and Mr. Carroll swung their votes in favor of the project, while Mr. Beshaw was absent.

The town is finishing up repaving the road, which the council previously agreed to fund with three different pots of money. The highway department is using $83,000 in town funds, $42,000 in state aid and $290,000 from the New York Power Authority to complete that project.

Several years ago, NYPA sold off small strips of riverfront it owned on Wilson Hill to homeowners with property adjacent to that land. NYPA then provided the town with the $290,000 in proceeds to complete other projects.

Mr. Legault said the council initially agreed to fund the road’s reconstruction and the base for a wider shoulder but held off on blacktopping it because of financial concerns. The council revisited the blacktopping issue at last week’s meeting, which Ms. Schneider said would cost approximately $15,000 more and better ensure the shoulder’s long-term condition.

Mr. Carroll and Mr. O’Keefe said they changed their minds after they reviewed the project’s numbers again with Highway Superintendent Vern Fenlong after Wednesday’s meeting.

“There was approximately four times as much money in the budget than I originally thought,” Mr. O’Keefe said.

Mr. Carroll echoed a similar sentiment.

“There was more leeway than I thought,” he said. “I was working off a different set of numbers Wednesday than I was yesterday.”

Both councilmen said they began reconsidering their decision soon after Wednesday’s meeting. Over the last five days, a petition urging them to do so circulated around town. But each said they were reconsidering regardless of the petition.

After word of the decision reached Wilson Hill, Ms. Schneider said she was approached by Shawna Cecot about starting a petition to get the shoulder paved.

“I did sign it and help Shawna put it together,” Ms. Schneider, who lives on the River Road, said.

This past weekend the petition was circulated, collecting approximately 150 signatures, mostly from people as they entered or left Wilson Hill.

“There were also lots of phone calls and emails to the other board members,” Ms. Schneider said, noting several community members reached out to Mr. Beshaw, Mr. O’Keefe and Mr. Carroll in an effort to get them to change their mind.

The petition urged Mr. Carroll, Mr. Beshaw and Mr. O’Keefe to reconsider.

“If the shoulder is not paved at this time, we believe it will never get done. We believe the road needs to be widened for safety,” the petition noted.

Ms. Schneider praised Mr. Carroll and Mr. O’Keefe for further reviewing the numbers and deciding there was enough money to blacktop the shoulder.

The abrupt scheduling of Monday’s meeting was necessary because road crews are finishing the project and need to blacktop the shoulder soon, Mr. Legault said.

“There are a lot of people who walk, run or ride their bikes along the shoulder out there. It’s very busy and for me it was a safety issue,” Mr. Legault said.

“I think we came up with a good solution,” she said. “It’s government at work.”

No members of the public attended Monday’s meeting.

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