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Riverhead Highway Superintendent George Woodson and the Riverhead Town Board have ended a standoff on the subject of providing snow-plowing services on Riverhead’s 77 or so private roads.

Riverhead will draft legislation modeled after a code enacted in the Town of Cortland in Westchester County, which specifies which limited municipal services, such as snow-plowing, will be provided to specified private roads within the town.

The Cortland approach will allow the town to plow private roads without assuming liability for other — much more expensive — responsibilities like repaving or making drainage improvements.

During a discussion at today’s work session, Woodson said he had spoken at length this morning with his counterpart in Cortland, who explained that municipality’s code.

“Basically, we would do plowing only and basic cold patch only,” Woodson said, referring to the method used to repair potholes in winter. “And they are no longer private roads. The ‘private road’ sign has to come down.”

Woodson, who said he was prompted by homeowners threatening to sue the town unless it repaved a private road the highway department has been plowing, decided to stop plowing private roads. He sent out a letter notifying homeowners on private roads and that sparked protests by residents.

The board today asked town attorney Bob Kozakiewicz to draft a code modeled on Cortland’s and the town board will hold a public hearing on it as soon as it’s ready.

“It’s going to take some time to draft the legislation, hold the hearing and complete the adoption,” Supervisor Sean Walter said. “If we have a storm before we have a statute, are you going to take care of this?” Walter asked Woodson, referring to snow plowing.

“If you declare a state of emergency like I’ve been trying to get you to do two years,” Woodson answered.

Woodson has sought, and Walter has resisted, the declaration of a state of emergency during significant snowfalls with the objective being to get parked cars off the streets, in order to make plowing operations more effective and efficient.

“I love the snow,” Walter joked. “But I will take care of it,” he said.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor and attorney. Her work has been recognized with numerous journalism awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She was also honored in 2020 with a NY State Senate Woman of Distinction Award for her trailblazing work in local online news. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.