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Frustration Escalates Over Stopped Bridge Work in Putnam Valley

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For almost two years drivers crossing the heavily traveled bridge at Oscawana Lake Rd. and Peekskill Hollow Rd. have had to press the brakes, lumber over thick metal road plates and pass through a mountain of construction material.

And that’s not the only bridge where stalled construction is an everyday nightmare for drivers. Two more locations, the intersection near the Putnam Valley High School-Middle School campus and another bridge at Lover’s Lane, have become known as the bridges that will never get fixed.

Of most concern is the safety impact the detours and incomplete construction would have on emergency responders unable to travel quickly in an emergency, potentially putting lives at risk.

Construction halted last summer after the Pleasantville-based Arben Group, the contractor hired by Putnam County, walked off the job allegedly because of a contractual misunderstanding with the county.

The responsibility of fixing the bridges and overseeing the projects apparently fell to the administration of former County Executive MaryEllen Odell. Odell was able to secure federal grants of $13 million for the work, which would pay for 80 percent of the project. The remaining costs were to be covered by the county.

Odell and then-commissioner of the Putnam County Highway and Facilities Department, Fred Pena, hired Arben, the low bidder, according to Sam Oliverio, Putnam Valley supervisor at the time. The work began in spring 2021 with a goal of replacing the bridges and making much-needed road improvements from Lovers Lane to Oregon Corners.

Oliverio said he noticed work on the bridges had stopped last fall.

“There are two conflicting stories. One from the contractor who claims that as work progressed the county highway department requirements for the work were not specified in the contract,” Oliverio said. “Arben removed all his equipment from two of the sites including steam shovels and equipment carriers. He just pulled them out.”

Crescent Lane resident Kathy Rainieri said she is fed up with driving through the barricades at one site and a single lane at another.

“I’m curious who in the prior administration was responsible for the contract,” she said. “How could there have been a contract that allowed the contractor to walk off the job?”

Examiner Media reached out to Putnam County Legislator William Gouldman (R-Putnam Valley) for a comment. Gouldman provided a “no comment” in an e-mail response and passed the request on to Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne.

Putnam County Communications Director Christopher Formisano said the previous administration’s contract with Arben had problems even before the work began.

“Rather than terminating the contract, the county chose to move forward with the contractor,” Formisano said in an e-mail. “Now, almost two years after the agreement and six months past the initial project completion date of August 4, 2022, the job is nowhere near close to done.”

Disgruntled with the lack of feedback from his local and county representatives about the bridges and roads is Tom Pendleton, a 20-year Peekskill Hollow Rd. resident.

“There’s been very little communication from Gouldman about anything, especially about the construction on Peekskill Hollow Rd.,” Pendleton said. “We have representatives in a county that collects our taxes, but they just sit in Carmel and they don’t talk to anybody.”

Rainieri said she was able to get through to Gouldman who told her that the county is suing the contractor. But Formisano said Byrne wants to avoid litigation if possible and that he has personally met with the contractor’s legal team to figure out how to continue the work.

Formisano also claimed the contractor’s solution to complete the job was unworkable.

“It would have fundamentally changed the job and our ability to receive New York State Department of Transportation grant dollars that were committed to fund 80% of the construction,” he stated.

The county has also retained outside counsel that specializes in construction law and is working with Arben’s insurance company, which is evaluating the county’s claims, according to Formisano.

Oliverio said the $13 million to pay for the project will be made available only when the work is complete.

For Rainieri, safety is the most serious issue posed by the stalled construction.

“I’m worried about the safety hazards and inconvenience of this situation,” Rainieri said. “I hope the county can come up with the 80 percent of the funds to pay for this because they can’t put that on the taxpayers.”


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