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Cities stuck with tab to replace street signs

sign_Oran Viriyincy.jpg
Oran Viriyincy
via Flickr
Here to help: the government is requiring a combination of upper and lower case text on street signs for legibility.

Street signs
The federal government is requiring municipalities across the country to swap out upper case street signs for signs with mixed cases (Like This), to make them easier for drivers to see.  But as the Times Union reports, the cost of swapping out the signs is no rounding error:

Starting 15 years ago, Colonie highway officials decided on their own to fashion signs out of reflective material. To date, the town has replaced nearly one-third of its 3,000 street signs -- but because the changes began before the new rules kicked in, the letters are exclusively uppercase. "So in effect, at some point, the town would have to replace 3,000 street signs," said Sara Wiest, a town spokeswoman. Because each sign costs about $30 to manufacture, the total price tag could be more than $90,000.

In nearby Guilderland the changes are estimated to cost $15,000, and Renssaelaer is dropping about $100,000 on the project.

Population changes
Buffalo Business First is reporting that Buffalo is dropping from the 59th largest city in the nation to 70th in new calculations.  It's part of a reshuffling going on across upstate as cities shrink and move and up down the ranking.  Rochester could soon lose its spot as third largest city in New York if Yonkers is able to pick up speed.

Hospital upgrades
The Buffalo News has a rundown of changes on the horizon at the Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo.  The $150 million project will be funded by bonds and a $7.5 million state grant, reports the paper.  The changes, including a new kidney care facility, a new parking ramp, and a new skilled nursing facility, were mandated by the state:

In 2008, the state's Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century ordered the medical center and Kaleida Health to form a unified, nonpublic governance structure that includes the University at Buffalo. Their agreement led to the formation of a parent organization known as Great Lakes Health that has worked with the hospitals and their physicians to plan more rationally where key services should be located.

Serving the needy
The Post-Standard reports that the need for social safety net services, like homeless shelters and food banks, are growing as funding for them wanes:

Last year the county paid for 2,036 hotel room nights for homeless families. During the first nine months of this year, that number rose to 2,759, an increase of more than 35 percent. If demand continues at the current pace, the county expects the hotel room night total for homeless people to hit 3,700 in 2010, an increase of more than 80 percent.

But it's not just the economy that's increasing demand for beds at shelters, according to the paper.  There isn't enough affordable housing, domestic violence is on the rise, and high utility bills are hitting bottom lines hard.

Radioactive leak
The Times Union has obtained a draft of a report about the release of radiation at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in September.  The paper found that the contractor in charge of the demolition of a building at the facility, Washington Group International (WGI), was rushing workers:

WGI managers "created an atmosphere of fear among the work force not to speak up about issues of concern," according to the DOE report. Such pressure "appears to be driven by project supervision and management personnel ... brought into the project with the purpose of improving production." The investigation also found "questionable document practices" by WGI managers, including handwritten changes to safety reports without evidence of when or by whom such changes were made.

Radiation was detected on workers' clothing, and pointed officials to the likelihood of the release of radiation:

On Oct. 5 and 6, tests of the H2 building's slab found that beta/gamma radiation was 1,700 times the project-imposed safety limit, and alpha radiation was 550 times such limits. According to the report, the Office of Naval Reactors Laboratory's field office found that contamination had spread to a 2.3-acre area, where levels were at least 20 times standard limits for beta/gamma radiation. "Air monitoring samples taken down hill at the discharge area to the Mohawk River, although below any limit, indicated some low level of elevated radioactivity," the report stated.

Legislative districts across the state and nation will be redrawn after the 2010 Census data is released.  In Monroe County, where Rochester is, groups are calling for independent redistricting, to better represent existing neighborhoods and towns, rather than protect political majorities.  But the Democrat and Chronicle reports that activists don't have much time to make their voice heard:

The whole process happens quickly, as census data is released at the end of 2010 or the beginning of 2011 and all 29 seats will be up for election in November 2011. Petitions for those elections usually go out in June.

Chesapeake Bay watershed
New York and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) still can't agree on how the state will cut its share of pollution in the Chesapeake watershed, reports the Press & Sun-Bulletin.  The plan is due next Monday, but New York's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is grappling with the proposed limits on chemicals like nitrogen and phosphorus in its farmers' agricultural run-off:

Before the public comment period on the EPA's plan -- known as the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) -- closed, the DEC submitted a 46-page document outlining their points of disagreement with the EPA, going as far as claiming the agency cannot legally force the state to participate.

Shopping local
As Black Friday approaches, the Democrat and Chronicle takes a look at smaller retailers, and how they compete.  The consensus is that personalized service (and cookies) work best:

"I don't try to compete head-on with the big retailers," said Eileen Wrona, owner of the Enchanted Rose Garden gift shop in Penfield. "I don't have a 5 a.m. opening. What I do have is old-fashioned customer service."

Wrona gets into her shop on Route 441 each morning a couple of hours before the 10 a.m. opening to make coffee and bake cookies. They're ready when the first shopper comes in the door.

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