As Carolyn Gusoff reported last week, she tagged and tracked uncollected litter for months on roads where sponsors pay an outside company to clean up frequently.
"Sponsor a highway: Someone's got to do it," said a litter maintenance worker.
And someone's got to pay for it.
On LIE service roads in Nassau County, it's local companies that sponsor litter cleanup.
For decades, all the money's gone to a private California-based company, paid every month for every mile. The company's pitch? They clean up 48-26 times per year.
Web Extra: Watch Gusoff's Investigation
But Gusoff tagged the same litter in the same places for months. The litter went uncollected.
The company declined to be interviewed, but cited weather and safety challenges, even through the mild winter.
Adopt A Highway Maintenance Corporation Written Statement:
Our company is very proud of the 30 years we have dedicated to building sponsor programs that fund essential litter removal along the most highly traveled and dangerous roads. Our employees put themselves at risk and do a job that many would not and is too often a thankless one. We have provided the WCBS reporter with an abundance of operational information to educate and inform the investigation as well as rebut what we believe was a pre-determined conclusion by WCBS. Our maintenance history has not been accurately characterized and our contractual duties have not been fairly presented. The investigative conclusion was determined long before we ever had an opportunity to address the reporters assertions and despite the info shared regarding our roadway maintenance history, logistics, health and safety issues, and well stated highway cleaning weather policies. Paramount in all of this is the information we provided WCBS regarding critical health and safety insights that addressed why winter months in the Northeast are far more difficult to schedule and maintain consistently irrespective of whether the highway cleaning is being done by a public agency or a private contractor. Our most fundamental commitment is to create and implement policies and practices that protect the health and safety of our crews and the traveling public. There is no doubt in my mind that this approach has blessed us with a remarkable safety record for the last 30 years. We are most proud of this track record of safety as every employee working the highways has gone home at the end of their day. The one area that we can all agree on is that roadways look awful when they are not maintained and we remain grateful to every sponsor who generously funds the work and equally, we all need to support the work and services provided by roadcrews in Long Island and across the country who strive to safely clean our roads.
"Clearly we have to monitor it better," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said after viewing the report. She called Gusoff's investigation "illuminating," shedding light on an issue that needed to be addressed.
Her administration discovered the sponsor a highway contract was first inked in 1997 under then-County Executive Thomas Gulotta. But since then, there's been little oversight.
"It's one of those things that's fallen through the cracks. People retire, administrations changed. Now that we are aware of it, we are 100 percent on top of it, and we are going to demand accountability," Curran said.
Officials say the agreement continued to require Adopt-A-Highway Maintenance to collect litter every two weeks, but even county road crews were unaware.
"There was really no monitoring from the point of 'Did they do a good enough job?' If they didn't, they should have been directed to do a better job. That's part of the contract," said Deputy Nassau County Executive Brian Schneider.
The arrangement had been so far under the radar, longtime mayors along the 15-mile, often littered corridor told Gusoff they'd never been clued in.
"I've never heard of this, that a private company was responsible and collecting funds to clear up all this refuse," said Mayor Marvin Natiss of the Village of North Hills.
What now? Nassau County officials say they will closely monitor the performance of Adopt-A-Highway Maintenance Corporation on a month-to-month basis while the contract is put out for bid later this year. The contract will be open to litter removal companies, including the current one.
"While we can be angry at people littering, and I am, we have to make sure we are doing our part," said Curran.
The system put in place years ago to fix the litter problem is now getting a fix itself.
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