For safety of highway crew as well as residents, open west end of Stage Road

To the Editor:

Mike (Warren F.) Willsey, a World War II veteran, will be 97 years old in June. He requires 24-hour care.  Currently his children, Amy, Winnie, Warren, Joel, and Joel’s wife, Patty, plus one full-time and two part-time aids care for him.

All these caregivers and visiting health-care professionals need dependable access to his residence.

Once again, this past week the hill on Stage Road was effectively closed for several days. The only time anyone could get to his home was immediately after the town plow made a pass. Within a few minutes the road was impassable to passenger cars again.

On Wednesday, one of the town plows was stuck there for an extended period, in the road, not off the road. This creates a very dangerous situation for everyone involved: Mike’s aides, health-care professionals, fire-protection personnel, emergency medical services, law enforcement, United States Postal Service, and town employees.

There is an alternative route available. A short section, several hundred feet of Stage Road from Mike’s house to State Route 443 is currently posted as a seasonal highway and is not plowed.

This section has been historically easier to open and keep open during a storm and the days of wind that follow while the hill on Stage Road has been closed during snowstorms for up to several weeks in the past.

This short section at Route 443 has never been the scene of an accident or reported incident. The intersection of Stage Road and Route 443 is clearly not a sight-distance problem for trucks with flashing beacons eight feet off the ground if there is no record of much lower cars colliding there.

When this section was closed, a petition to keep it open with signatures of 24 people who routinely used it was presented to the Berne Town Board. The board agreed with the numerous residents and users of Stage Road who protested at that meeting.

The town board passed a resolution that night, at the November meeting in 2016, stating that it was the board’s opinion that the intersection of 443 and Stage Road be opened. [The Altamont Enterprise, Nov. 17, 2016].

The superintendent of highways ignored the town board resolution, ignored all the signatures on the petition, and ignored all the residents who protested at the November 2016 meeting that he attended. He took it a step further, claiming on social media that only one person ever had an issue with the closing of Stage Road.

How is anyone’s safety enhanced when there is no access for fire trucks, ambulance, EMS, caregivers, family, or law enforcement? How safe are the town employees who have direct responsibility to keep a highway open as the only access to a residence where the road simply cannot be kept open?

It is simply not possible to keep that section of highway open. It is unfair to the town employees to put them in this impossible situation.

How is the safety of Mike and his caregivers protected by not having access to the shorter and more easily maintained route that we had used since the 1930s without incident?

The seasonally closed section of Stage Road needs to be evaluated by a professional engineer for recommendations and permanently reopened for the safety of all involved. 

Warren H. Willsey

Amy Willsey

Winnie Chartier

Joel Willsey

Patty Willsey

Caitlyn Rice

Ashley Attoma

Danielle Powers

Debbie Lanahan

Dylan Willsey

Graham Willsey


Editor’s note: In November 2016, the Berne Town Board unanimously approved a resolution to identify “the west end of Stage Road as a seasonal closure that appears to be inconsistent with New York State Highway law” because it “limits access to occupied residents, therefore we recommend that the road not be closed.”

Two videos are posted with this letter on the Enterprise website. Both were taken on the afternoon of March 15. One, taken at 3:05 p.m., shows the segment of Stage Road that is considered open; the other, taken at 3:10 p.m., shows the officially closed section of road, which the Willseys formerly depended on for winter access.



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