Vecchio blasted for bad roads in Smithtown

Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio. (Feb. 26, 2008)

Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio. (Feb. 26, 2008) Photo Credit: Peter Dilauro

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The leader of a top Long Island business group Tuesday defended his recent assertion that Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio would be dead before the town's crumbling roads are repaired.

In last month's newsletter of the Association for a Better Long Island, Desmond Ryan, the group's executive director, blasted Vecchio for opposing a plan to fix town roads. Ryan said Vecchio was stifling economic growth in the town.

"The only satisfaction the voter would have had is that Vecchio's hearse could have broken an axle on lousy roads on the way to the cemetery," Ryan said in the newsletter. "This is a perfect example of 'kicking the can' so far down the road that the pall bearers will have to step around it."

The article was accompanied by a cartoon showing a skeleton stepping on a man sitting in a pothole. Gary Lewi, a spokesman for ABLI, confirmed the skeleton represents Vecchio and the man being stepped on represents taxpayers.

Town highway superintendent Glenn Jorgensen has asked the town board, of which Vecchio is a member, to borrow $10 million to pave roads and fix curbs and sidewalks. Vecchio, who at 81 is Long Island's oldest and longest serving supervisor, said in February that the borrowing was "not sustainable."

Tuesday, he laughed when Ryan's comments were read to him during an interview. He declined to comment. He also refused to comment on a recent speech by Jorgensen to the Long Island Contractors' Association, in which Jorgensen said he believes four of the five town board members may approve the borrowing.

"I won't say who the no vote is -- you all know who that is," he said, apparently referring to Vecchio.

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The comment, which was published in the contractors' group newsletter, was greeted with applause and "laughter across the room," executive director Marc Herbst said.

Jorgensen could not be reached Tuesday.

Ryan, a longtime Vecchio critic who lives in St. James and grew up in Kings Park, said Tuesday that town roads "are just falling apart" and Vecchio was blocking efforts to repair them. He defended his newsletter comments, saying Vecchio appears uninterested in leading the town. "Do you do nothing until the day you die?" he said. "The best thing for Smithtown would be for him to leave office."

Councilman Edward Wehrheim said Ryan's criticism of Vecchio is "not new," noting the two men -- both Republicans -- have long been at odds. "I don't think they've been close buddies for quite some time," he said.

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