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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 15, 2009

In Knox
Salisbury vs. Barber for highway superintendent

By Zach Simeone

KNOX — Republican incumbent Gary Salisbury is running for a fourth term as highway superintendent, and will be challenged by Dennis Barber, who is running on the Democratic line.

The candidates answered questions about their backgrounds this week, and talked about their credentials and what they would bring to the town’s highway department if elected.

Gary Salisbury

Salisbury, 45, has been highway superintendent of Knox for six years, and had worked in the town’s highway department for 16 years before that. He was also a mechanic before joining the town’s highway department.

“I first ran because I knew I could make some big changes, and do things better and different,” Salisbury told The Enterprise. “So far, it’s been going very well, and I feel I have accomplished everything I said I would. There’s more work to be done, of course, but I think I’ve improved things.”

The biggest change since his taking the position, Salisbury said, is the way the town maintains the roads in the winter.

“We work more or less around the clock, seven days a week if need be, to keep the roads open,” he said. “We didn’t have that in the past, and I put emphasis on keeping the roads clear as possible for school buses. I just didn’t think they were up to standards before, and we do the best we can now to make sure that they are.”

The roads themselves have also improved, he said, because the department has gone into the roads and improved their bases.

“Without a base, you don’t have anything,” Salisbury said. “The roads we have finished the base on, we’ve paved a lot of them. We have a lot more paved road now than we used to,” he said.

He thinks the roads in town are generally in good shape, and hears very few complaints from residents, he said.

“Normally, it’s more of an issue of, like, someone’s driveway culvert, and we usually take care of that right away,” Salisbury said. “But my biggest complaints come from people on county and state roads that don’t understand that I have nothing to do with those roads. I can’t have anything to do with them; it’s not my jurisdiction, and a lot of people in town don’t realize there are state, county, and town roads within the town.”

The easiest way to distinguish between town roads and non-town roads, he said, is that town roads do not have painted lines on them.

“Some towns have pavement markings, but, in Knox, we don’t have town roads with center lines,” he said. “Our roads are considered low-volume roads.”

Further, Salisbury said that the town’s highway equipment is in good shape, partially because equipment is traded back to the dealer after some years of use, and the trade-in takes a chunk out of the cost of new equipment.

“Our trucks we try to keep for around 10 years,” Salisbury said. “Our small vehicles, we try to put a limit of five years on them when possible, and our heavy equipment, we try to keep that no more than 15 years. Last year, we traded in a backhoe that was five years old, and, by doing so, it had such a good value that we traded it in and got a new machine.”

One issue that has been the source of heated discussions in several Hilltown highway departments is the idea of sharing services with the Albany County Department of Public Works. Some have feared that jobs would be lost if an actual merger were to occur.

“My personal thought on that is, I don’t really have a problem sharing services with anyone, but, as far as merging, I think it’s a bad idea,” Salisbury said. “I think the town should stay town, and the county should stay county. We have an inter-municipal shared-service agreement with the other Hilltowns, and that seems to be working real well for us. With the county, it doesn’t seem to work. For one, it’s almost two different types of work. With the county, it’s more of a maintenance type of job; any of their major road construction type things go out to contractors. In towns, we pretty much do everything we can ourselves.”

Dennis Barber

“I’m a people person, and I’m a stickler for detail,” said Dennis Barber, who will challenge Salisbury in the race for highway superintendent. “So, the roads will have no potholes, and be free of garbage,” he said.

Barber, 54, has worked for the New York State Department of Transportation for 22 years.

“I work in the highways; I work on the roads plowing snow; I work the trucks,” said Barber. “We used to do some blacktop, but the state’s getting away from that; a lot of it’s being contracted out for the blacktop.”

Barber was raised on a hay farm in Knox, and has been involved in the community ever since, he said. He officiates high school basketball and baseball, and is president of the Berne-Knox-Westerlo Little League. He also coaches the Catholic Youth Organization’s basketball team and Helderberg Basketball, and helped start the youth soccer program.

Barber was also on the town’s master planning committee, was an ambulance driver for about five years, and was a member of the fire department for 20 years, he said. He is currently on the zoning board of appeals.

If elected highway superintendent, Barber intends on keeping the town “friendly and clean,” he said.

Barber is also in the DOT’s safety program, and wants to use that experience to bring safety and awareness to the town. Some of this, he said, could be done through the town’s website.

“We could show what work is being done on town roads, so people are aware ahead of time, and they’ll know if certain roads are blocked off ahead of time,” Barber said.

With regard to sharing services with the county’s highway department, Barber thinks it’s something that should be looked in to.

“What happens, I think, is people are personal and passionate about where they work,” Barber said. “Am I going to lose my job? That’s the concern. I think where I work in Voorheesville, there’re four entities: New York State DOT; the village of Voorheesville’s highway department; the town of New Scotland’s highway department; and the county highway department is right there in Voorheesville. You’d think they could share something. Why do we have to have four different fuel tanks? It’s something that should be looked into — anything that can save taxpayers money.”

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