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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 29, 2009

Rensselaerville highway super race
GOP’s Zeh launches challenge

By Zach Simeone

RENSSELAERVILLE — On the road to heading the highway department, Republican Gary Zeh is challenging long-time Democratic incumbent G. Jon Chase, who is running for his fourth four-year term.

Zeh, 45, has lived in Rensselaerville for 17 years. He is a self-employed contractor with JAG Construction Incorporated, his excavation and site-development company, which started as a part-time business in 1994, and went full-time in 2000.

His previous work includes about 13 years at Callanan Industries Inc., a company that provides paving materials and construction services, where he was an assistant project superintendent and, later, a project manager.

Zeh has an associate’s degree in civil engineering from the State University of New York College of Technology at Canton. He later studied at the Rochester Institute of Technology, but left after one semester for financial reasons, he said.

“My platform is to make these roads last 10 years, and do it right the first time,” Zeh told The Enterprise. He refers to the guidelines for the state’s Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIP), which say that a municipality “must certify that the project is expected to have a useful service life of at least 10 years.”

“There may be fewer improvements per year,” Zeh went on, “but, over time, it’ll save the town money, because they’re going to last 10 years, and it’ll cut your maintenance down tremendously. We can still fix these roads correctly and make them last.”

The idea to run for highway superintendent came to Zeh when he began paying close attention to how the roads were being built.

“I don’t think the current superintendent is spending the money wisely,” Zeh said of Chase. “He’s doing more temporary repairs, when he should be doing permanent repairs.”

Further, Chase is not following “proper construction methods,” Zeh said.

“He’s spending thousands of dollars putting a couple of inches of stone on the road and, within two months, it’s either rolled off the road by traffic or heavy rain,” he said. “It’s not staying on the roads, and it happens year after year.”

Like a house, a road needs a proper foundation, Zeh went on.

“If you put a couple inches of stone on top of clay or shale, and you’re putting oil and stone over top of it, in one or two years, it’s falling apart,” said Zeh. “You need to do a minimum six inches of crusher run, and maybe more asphalt also…You’d need at least three to five inches of asphalt, depending on the road and the volume of traffic, and then you can do your top.”

Another issue with Rensselaerville roads, he said, is improper ditching and crowning. The term crown is used to describe the road’s raised center, and the slope that causes the water to flow towards the ditches on the outside of the road.

“A lot of these roads are deteriorating because water is running towards the center of the roads because there isn’t proper ditching to carry that water away,” he said. “You need the crown so the water runs from the center to the outside, and you need proper ditching to carry that water where it has to go. A lot of unpaved roads are being continually washed away.”

Towns in Albany County have considered sharing services with the county’s department of public works, and the idea of merging has even come up in some discussions. In Berne, this idea caused an upheaval in the highway department.

“It’s something I’d definitely look into,” Zeh said of sharing services with the county’s highway department, “as well as sharing services with other towns.”

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