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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 19, 2009


A rocky road?
Highway super outlines annual road repairs as town adopts new voucher system

By Zach Simeone

RENSSELAERVILLE — Highway Superintendent G. Jon Chase, who oversees road repairs in town, has a full plate for the coming year.

“It’s a tough job with the budget I have, because oil prices are out of sight,” Chase said. “To do an asphalt road, per mile, it’s about $100,000, and I have $272,000 in my budget for repairs,” he said.

At the Feb. 12 town board meeting, Chase introduced the highway contract for 2009, outlining repairs to be done on eight town roads.

Bob Bolte, Ken Cooke, and Steve Wood — frequent volunteers and watchdogs in town — wrote to the Enterprise editor that the proposed road repairs were not those that were most needed.

Asked for a response to the letter, Chase told The Enterprise, “If you’re trying to get me to talk about how bad my roads are, you’re wasting your time.” He then went on to outline some of the repairs lined up for this year.

Bates Hollow Road will require about $18,000 worth of work, Chase said. “It’s been ditched, it’s been widened, everything’s been done except for the top,” he said.

King Lane is in similar shape, but will only cost $5,000, said Chase. “These two roads will be a double seal with oil and stone, which is like an asphalt,” he said of Bates Hollow Road and King Lane.

Also on Chase’s list is Tanglewood Road, which will cost $50,000. “We’ve got probably three days left of work there,” Chase said. “All the culverts are in, we’ve just got to re-straighten the road from the winter, and fix a couple of ditching problems, and it needs a top.”

Kenyon Road, which was worked on last year, is about two miles long, one-and-a-half miles of which, Chase said, will need culvert work, ditching, and a new top. The cost of this work will be $50,000.

“We’re going to do some work on it definitely, but whether or not we get it finished, I don’t know,” Chase said. “We need to raise the road about three feet in about a quarter of a mile,” he said. While Kenyon Road used to be a seasonal road, this is the second year there will be school buses driving on it.

Pearson Road is still a work in progress. “We’ve been working on that project for about four or five years,” Chase said.

At its Jan. 8 meeting, the town board unanimously accepted a $298,000 bid from Dan’s Hauling and Demolition, Inc. to undertake the long-discussed Pearson Road culvert project. “And we do have all the permits in hand,” Chase said.

“It’s a removal of the existing culvert and replacing it with a new, pre-cast concrete culvert,” Town Attorney Joseph Catalano told The Enterprise in January.

“It’s a box culvert; it’s like a big square,” he said. “The deteriorated condition of the culvert has been known to the highway superintendent, who alerted the board about it a couple years ago. The condition has been monitored, and it’s to the point where it needs to be replaced relatively soon, due to age and water damage. The reason why it was put off was because of finances, and trying to have enough money within the town budget to do that. The town has a number of these large culverts that almost operate like bridges. We replaced one a couple years ago, and this one was the next in line,” Catalano said.

Construction on the Pearson Road culvert project is expected to take place between June 15 and Sept. 30, said Chase.

The highway department “did some work” on Gifford Hollow Road last year, Chase went on.

“That road gets a lot of traffic, and it’s in pretty rough shape,” he said. “We need to do some more work with culverts, there are trees that need to be trimmed, and the road is going to be ripped up and get a new top put down, but it probably won’t all be done this year.” The repairs needed on this 1.73-mile stretch of road carry a $75,000 price tag.

Four-tenths of a mile on Engle Road need “a little bit of ditching, but the culverts have all been done,” Chase said, costing $20,000. Tornatore Lane may also be worked on, “depending on the weather and the amount of money I have left,” Chase said. This .34-miles-long stretch will cost $25,000 to repair.

“The thing of it is, this year, our back roads are in terrible shape because of the frost out there, and it’s so costly to bring the roads up to standards, there’s no way you can do it when you’re only getting $272,000,” said Chase. “And this doesn’t mean that all these roads are going to be done; it depends on weather, and it depends on prices.”

Vouchers

To purchase the necessary materials for the roadwork ahead, Chase will have to go through the town’s new voucher procedure, introduced by Councilwoman Marie Dermody at the Feb. 12 meeting. The goal of this more detailed procedure is to help prevent the confusion and suspicion that launched the ongoing investigation of Rensselaerville’s finances involving the Office of the Albany County Comptroller and the Office of the Albany County District Attorney.

The procedure was eventually adopted, though Supervisor Jost Nickelsberg disagreed with the requirement of only a majority approval; he felt that vouchers should require unanimous approval from the town board for validation.

“The whole reason to have a voucher process is so that there can be no potential corruption. In this case, there are at least three ways that you can get past the process,” Nickelsberg said of the three Democrats on the town board; he and Councilman Robert Lansing make up the Republican minority. Nickelsberg has long been at odds with the highway superintendent, who is a Democrat.

“The process that [Dermody] has definitely eliminates some of the other ways to potentially utilize corruption, but, as long as you have a vote of 3 to 2, and those people are on one side of an issue, then you could still not be able to do what is the right thing to do,” Nickelsberg said. “If it’s a legal issue, and we owe money, all five people should be able to have the understanding that it’s the right thing to do and get it done,” he said.

In an effort to ensure meticulous bookkeeping, the policy includes the following guidelines:

— Voucher submittal must include the dates of services rendered or products or materials delivered, place of delivery, date of the invoice, the per-item cost, the quantity of services and materials, the balance due, a description of the services rendered, and the original signature of the individual or company representative verifying the truth and accuracy of the voucher;

— Vouchers must correspond to one invoice, except in cases where there are multiple invoices relating to one specific project;

— Vouchers applicable to the general fund must be submitted to the town clerk, while vouchers applicable to the highway fund must be submitted to the highway clerk;

— In order for a voucher to be authorized for payment by the town board, it must be submitted to the town clerk or highway clerk on or before the Friday prior to the regular town board meeting;

— The town clerk or highway clerk, depending on the voucher, will initial and timestamp the voucher with the date of receipt. Any voucher without this initial and timestamp will not be processed.


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