MAYVILLE - Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards has received over 100 email notifications from residents who have signed an electronic petition to save the county's Sherman shop.
Over the years, Edwards has made consolidation and cost reduction a theme of his administration and has taken every opportunity to analyze, consolidate, reduce costs and improve many services. The changes to the Sherman shop are part of these efforts.
The petition found on the "Save the Sherman County Shop" group's Facebook page allows residents to show their support for keeping the Sherman shop open year-round and was fueled by an announcement notifying employees the shop will be closed for the construction season.
The Department of Public Facilities' construction season runs from April to November and the winter season for snowplow drivers usually starts the Monday before Thanksgiving and ends the first week in April.
"I enjoy the opportunity to communicate with taxpayers and do my best to respond to each and every letter, e-mail and telephone call I receive," Edwards said. "However, there is no way for me to respond to these e-mails since they come from anonymous addresses."
"I have reviewed these emails along with Mr. (George) Spanos (Department of the
Public Facilities Director), and while I appreciate the interest and concern residents have for the future of the Sherman shop, I feel that they are continuing to be misinformed," Edwards said. "As we have indicated before, the shop will not be closed year-round and some of the concerns petitioners have expressed are not valid in how the shop will be operated if it is closed during the construction season."
Edwards said the seven main concerns seen in the emails are:
Current Sherman shop employees losing their jobs;
Longer response time during a storm;
More mileage on county vehicles;
Longer travel time to worksite and less work being performed;
Increased funding for higher fuel usage;
Lower employee morale; and
A concentration of efforts in Sheridan and Falconer will lead other areas to become neglected.
"Again, I must remind residents that current jobs at the Sherman shop are not in danger, and these employees will not be laid off when the Sherman shop is closed during the construction season," Edwards said. "Seasonal crews and construction employees would still be serving the Sherman area for road repairs, they would just be reporting to work at either the Sheridan or Falconer shops. This change would have no impact on snowplowing as the shop would reopen for the winter season. In addition, the three mechanics who work year-long at the Sherman shop would be reassigned to either Falconer or Sheridan and would have the same jobs and the same rate of pay."
"The concern that county roads would be snowier and icier is not a valid concern," Spanos said. "The winter season starts around Thanksgiving when snowplow drivers begin their shifts. Snowplowing will not be affected by this change as the employees will report to the Sherman shop to pick up their plows. Roads would continue to be plowed as they have in the past."
The final most common concerns petitioners posed is the increase in travel time and the associated concerns of an increase in fuel costs and more mileage being put on county vehicles. With the shop closed during the construction season, workers would commute to the Sheridan or Falconer shops and then travel to their construction site with the other employees.
"Over the past few years, crews reporting to Sherman have traveled to perform work throughout the county," Spanos said. "Being dispatched from another location will result in some of the distances to job sites being shorter and some longer."