Potholes May Worsen Before They Improve

Sprawling trenches of missing pavement and gaping cavities of crumbling blacktop have Jamestown residents outraged, especially when they have to pay dearly for vehicular damage.

More than a few tires have blown out due to the potholes, which are high on the list of concerns for locals.

Deborah Cowan of Jamestown is one of them.

When she received a phone call last week that her son broke the axle on his BMW due to a pothole on Foote Avenue, she was furious.

“I’ve been all over the place, and the potholes are the worst in Jamestown,” Cowan said. “How come they aren’t as bad in Lakewood, Falconer, West Ellicott and Erie as they are here?”

Shortly after the incident, a friend of Cowan’s blew a tire at the very same stretch of Foote Avenue between Barker Street and Newland Avenue.

The owner of a Nissan Juke, recently towed to Monro Muffler in Lakewood, was shocked when she found out it needed $5,000 worth of repairs.

“We’re getting a lot of claims (from drivers), and a lot of complaint phone calls,” said Mark Schlemmer, operations engineer for the Department of Public Works. “We’ll patch (the potholes) at every available opportunity.”

Sunshine through the end of the week did help, he said, adding that crews have been working with cold patch asphalt daily.

“We’ve been out there every day with two patch trucks, all day long,” Schlemmer said. “I don’t think we’ve ever had to man two patch trucks. We’ve always been able to keep up with one crew, but we do have two out there, so we are trying.”

However, Schlemmer said the worst is not over.

A closer look at the roads reveals humps of slightly elevated sections of pavement.

“Where you see that crack, where things are starting to show, it’s only going to get worse,” Schlemmer said, adding that potholes this year are dramatically worse than they were in recent years.

This winter’s intense freeze has left groundwater frozen beneath the roads.

“When that water starts to melt, the ground will become weak and vehicles will start to break the pavement down even more,” Schlemmer said. “We still have weeks to go, and my prediction is that by the end of this month, we’re going to be in for another wave of nasty potholes – sorry to say.”

There is good news, though.

Jamestown Macadam Inc., the city’s blacktop supplier, will open and produce hot mix asphalt two weeks earlier than usual.

“That means we’ll be able to start repairing the roads with more of a permanent patch a little sooner,” Schlemmer said. “We’re going to try and attack it with as much manpower and crews as we can this year.”

County Executive Vince Horrigan agreed that extreme temperatures have hindered repair.

“It’s been a very difficult year, and the problem is all over Western New York, but it’s definitely an important priority to us and we’ll get it done as soon as the weather lets us,” he said.

In other matters, Jamestown Comptroller Joe Bellitto said this year’s snowfall hasn’t been as severe as 2013.

“So far this year, we’ve spent a little over half of our budget for snow removal salt, which was $345,000,” Bellitto said. “Last year at this point, we had spent a little over $200,000.”

In 2013, almost $500,000 was spent on salt and equipment, which was $160,000 over budget.

The Department of Public Works uses 12 vehicles for snow removal and salt spreading in the city and employs 43 workers.