The Village of Walden, as part of the ongoing litigation against the Town of Montgomery for the state of Hill Street Bridge, recently submitted a notice of motion to the Orange County Supreme Court and currently awaits the town to respond.
Originally constructed in 1928, Hill Street Bridge gradually deteriorated and became unsafe to travel across after several decades of usage. In 2008, the New York State Department of Transportation marked the bridge with a yellow flag warning, indicating potentially hazardous conditions, followed by a red flag warning on September 27, 2013, promoting the bridge’s closure. While Hill Street Bridge is located in Walden, the Town of Montgomery is legally responsible for the bridge’s repairs and maintenance, a point which the town’s officials have publicly acknowledged.
Despite numerous pleas from Walden’s village board, first responders and residents over the past ten years, the Town of Montgomery has not taken any actions to restore or replace Hill Street Bridge. Starting in April 2023, the Village of Walden took steps to enact a litigation against both the Town of Montgomery and Shaun Mere’s, the town’s highway superintendent, for their inactivity.
On June 15, the Village of Walden submitted a summons, a complaint and exhibits to the Orange County Supreme Court; the Town of Montgomery would submit its own exhibit on August 8 responding to Walden’s evidence.
As detailed in its exhibits, Walden demands that the Town of Montgomery and Meres take their responsibility over Hill Bridge Street seriously and pay for the bridge’s repairs or replacement.
In regards to the bridge’s current condition, the village’s biggest concern is safety. In 2019, several first responders from Walden’s fire department, police department, ambulance corps, and Montgomery’s own ambulance corps stressed that the bridge’s closure will hinder response times for residents living along Hill Street and the surrounding area. Hence, the village sought legal action against the Town of Montgomery to ensure the safety of its community.
As rebuttal to Walden’s exhibit, the Town of Montgomery has argued that Hill Street Bridge’s impact on the community is minimal, and the benefits of its restoration or replacement do not justify the “financial burden” that the town and its residents would pay for.
The town argued that the bridge’s closure has not hindered emergency response times or commuting as much as the village claimed, and does not endanger residents so long as it’s closed off. The exhibit pointed out that first responders can cross Tin Brook via the bridge on East Main Street, which is about 250 feet away from Hill Street Bridge.
Additionally, the town’s exhibit mentioned that Walden’s first responders stopped driving through Hill Street Bridge in 2008 after the NYS DOT issued a yellow flag warning, five years before the bridge officially closed.
Lastly, the exhibit stated that, since the bridge has been closed for over five years, it is legally considered abandoned and does not require any further action.
Though he has declined to comment on the matter recently, Montgomery Town Supervisor Ron Feller has previously voiced his opposition to using monies from the Town of Montgomery’s general fund to pay for the bridge.
“Just for the record, I’m not in favor of having people of the Village of Maybrook and Village of Montgomery chip in for this,” Feller said in July of 2022 when he was Deputy Supervisor under Brian Maher. “It’s bad enough we’re paying for it because we are the town, period. They are not the town.”
On October 31, the Village of Walden submitted a notice of motion to the Orange County Supreme Court, including affidavits from Village Manager John Revella, Village Clerk Marisa Kraus, and Village Engineer John Queenan.
On November 7, the attorneys of Walden and Montgomery, Robert Zitt and William Frank respectively, agreed to and signed a stipulation that extended the deadline for Montgomery to respond to Walden’s notice of motion. Originally November 30, the town now has until December 13 to respond.
Citing the pending litigation, neither Revella nor Feller was willing to comment on the matter at this time.