Frank Pauli has fond memories of kids gathering at his family’s property on a Schoharie County mountain during the summer.
But those memories have been fading since 2011, when massive rainfall tore up Thorington Road leading to the parcel that’s been in his family since 1938.
The senior citizen is among six property owners fed up with waiting for the road to be fixed, and they’re asking a judge to punish the town of Broome and order the municipality to use FEMA funding allotted for repairs and fix the road.
“They keep telling us they’re going to fix it in the spring,” said Pauli, who said only his nephews will brave the road now so they can go deer hunting.
According to a complaint filed in state Supreme Court, Tropical Storm Irene’s rainfall washed away much of the road, limiting and in some cases preventing access.
The complaint requests a judge order the town to begin repairs and seeks unspecified monetary damages.
Town Highway Superintendent Michael Parker declined to discuss the issue at length, but said the town’s been in a difficult situation since Irene left about $1.5 million in damage to town roads.
Thorington Road runs alongside a creek flowing to the Franklinton Vlaie — a protected Catskill Creek tributary. Due to both the potential impact to the Vlaie and the breeding seasons for local bald eagles, the town is limited in when it can work on the road.
And this summer, a deluge that shut down Middleburgh and Schoharie also hit Broome, causing another $70,000 in damage to roads year-round residents live on.
It’s unclear why the town has been unable to fix Thorington Road, according to an attorney hired by local families affected by the road. The town already received approval for post-disaster repairs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to attorney Casey Jordan of Syracuse.
“It’s been years since this happened, and why it is that they haven’t come in there and fixed it? I really don’t know,” Jordan said.
The lawsuit is seen as a last resort. Jordan said he’s been communicating with town officials for months.
“We’ve been trying to facilitate getting this done for over a year now. It seems to me a lot of this has to do with the fact that a lot of these homes aren’t year-round homes. They’re kind of getting the brush-off,” Jordan said.
Jordan said he believed they had made progress getting the local government to act when in January they received a letter from town Supervisor Anne Batz promising the road was to be fixed.
According to the lawsuit, Batz in her letter to Jordan said an extension was secured from FEMA and permits were already obtained from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Construction, Batz said in the letter, would take place between April and September of this year.
Efforts to reach Batz were unsuccessful Thursday.
Also upsetting is the negative impact the busted-up road has on property values, he said.
At this point, Jordan said, it’s likely too late to get any asphalt since the construction season is winding down.
He hopes the civil action will put his clients’ road at the top of the list for the town when it begins roadwork in 2014.