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North Hempstead Town law restricts road openings by utilities

The change is intended to prevent utility companies from tearing up newly paved streets in the town, officials said.

A change in a North Hempstead law restricts

A change in a North Hempstead law restricts reopening newly paved roads.  Photo Credit: Newsday/William Perlman

North Hempstead Town officials hope a recent change in a law will keep utility companies from damaging newly repaved roads.

The amendment states that the town's highway department will not give road opening permits to anyone performing work under town roads that have been resurfaced within the past three years. The nix also applies to new roads created within the past five years. The amendment does not apply when a utility company needs to install a new gas connection to a residential property. 

Town officials said the amendment approved on Dec. 18 should help prevent companies such as National Grid and PSEG Long Island from opening freshly renovated roads. The move also aims to save taxpayers from having to fund more road repairs, Supervisor Judi Bosworth said.

“It’s really difficult when residents see the roads being torn up after they’ve been repaved and we’ve made every effort to coordinate with National Grid or PSEG,” Bosworth said last month when the amendment was introduced. “We’re accused of being incompetent and it’s really through no fault of our own.”

Bosworth said newly paved roads being reopened stems from miscommunication between the town and utility companies. 

“We’re paving roads and we are trying to coordinate with the various utilities and they give us their plan and, all of a sudden, they give us a new plan and it involves them tearing up roads that we’ve just repaved," she said. 

Undesired road openings have been an issue for years, said Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio, but National Grid launching significant work in July in Port Washington catapulted the issue to the forefront. 

De Giorgio said residents have complained about utility companies opening roads to conduct work then having the hole filled poorly. De Giorgio described the fill work as "a series of patches" that sometimes sink and ultimately deteriorate the road quicker. 

"And obviously, aesthetically, it looks like a checkerboard," she said. "It's not a paved road."

Town officials said there are examples across North Hempstead of the town repaving a road followed by a utility company reopening it. De Giorgio said the town repaved Oakland Drive in Port Washington in 2015 and National Grid reopened it in 2017.

Ideally, a utility company would finish its work under a decaying road then the town would repave the street soon after, De Giorgio said. 

Representaives with National Grid and PSEG Long Island issued statements about North Hempstead's amendment, pledging their cooperation with town officials.

"We are always looking to take steps to upgrade our infrastructure ahead of town [road] paving,” spokeswoman Wendy Ladd said.

A PSEG spokeswoman said most of the company utility lines are overhead and workers would only need to open the ground during emergencies. 

“PSEG Long Island works closely with municipalities to keep the lines of communication open," spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler said.

SIMILAR LEGISLATION

Other cities across the country have moved to bar local utilities from cutting open newly paved roads. 

LA HABRA, CALIFORNIA

The city council passed a five-year moratorium on utility companies opening freshly paved roads in October 2017.

NEW YORK CITY

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an initiative in July 2018 to curb "street cuts" in the boroughs, including forming a working group of city officials and utility companies workers that share each organization's work schedules.

WHITTIER, CALIFORNIA

The city council passed a law in June 2018 that bans cutting open a newly paved road for five years. 

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