There’s no denying it. Road conditions in New Rochelle have been deplorable these past few months, with potholes of every shape and size proliferating throughout the city. They look terrible and, more importantly, they pose a potential hazard. Of course, I experience it just like everyone else — driving to work, getting the boys from school, going to the supermarket — and I am in the habit of reporting pothole locations to DPW on a near-constant basis.

So what happened? Why has the pothole problem been so much worse this year than in prior years?

Well, the initial scope of the problem resulted from the winter season’s unusually harsh weather. Combine snow plows with salt, add the freezing and thawing cycle, and you have a formula for cracked asphalt.

The glacial pace of repair, however, has had a different cause. As you know from prior posts, the City has been steadily reducing the size of the municipal workforce in response to fiscal and economic pressures. The Department of Public Works presently has its lowest manpower level in the modern history of New Rochelle. And these cuts have consequences.

Although the City has had a crew assigned to pothole repair since late winter, a single crew is simply not capable of covering a community our size in a timely fashion. To make matters worse, this crew has often been re-assigned to core responsibilities, like sanitation, when other workers call in sick. There’s no slack left in the City workforce, and important tasks must sometimes be postponed to make sure that urgent tasks — like picking up the trash — are addressed.

Realizing that the job was never going to get done, the City Administration decided to retain private contractors to supplement our in-house manpower. Those contractors have been in the field for several weeks now, and the pace of repair has accelerated significantly as a result. We’ve still got a way to go, but I am hopeful that the potholes will be an unpleasant memory by the time the trees are in full bloom.