Board hands highway duty to Crosier
The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia
Informing the public, a sign posted at the Thompsons’s Lake public-access area advises boaters to clean off invasive species. “Its bottom edge is just nine inches off the ground and is so near the lake shore that it is submerged during seasonal high water periods,” George Christian, the lake association's president, wrote of the sign.
BERNE — Highway Superintendent Kenneth Weaver walked the town roads he wanted to repair a few weeks ago. But neither he nor the list of quotes for repairs were at the Aug. 13 meeting when councilmembers unanimously authorized the supervisor to prepare the list instead.
The annual list of repairs is one of the most fundamental agreements that a highway superintendent and a majority of the town board have to sign. Supervisor Kevin Crosier said the list submitted by Weaver after the meeting is over budget.
“We’re going to say to him, ‘This is what needs to be done and here’s the money,’” Crosier said Wednesday, explaining his road repair list would include materials that last longer. He said his focus is on properly spending public money.
Papers detailing the measurements, materials, methods, and prices were in Weaver’s truck the day of the meeting, Weaver said, and were handed to Crosier the day after the vote.
“I had family issues. I just couldn’t make it,” Weaver said Tuesday of the meeting. “I didn’t know this was going to happen or I would have made it a point to be there.”
“I’m an elected official,” he said. “I don’t see how the town board can vote for the supervisor to do my job.”
Voters re-elected Weaver for a four-year term last year when he ran on the Republican line in a Democrat-dominated town. He had agreed with Democrats, his former party line, to step down if his benefits in retirement could be preserved. He said at the time that he has to pay his ill wife’s benefits and wanted assurance his would be stable.
Weaver decided to run again when he was told board members couldn’t promise in writing that his benefits wouldn’t ever change; they would only agree not to cast votes changing his benefits.
All of the current town board members are Democrats.
The road repairs list is an agreement between the town board and the highway superintendent, according to section 284 of the state’s Highway Law. The supervisor can’t authorize spending from the highway budget for road repairs not in the agreement, and the superintendent can’t perform repairs that a majority of the board hasn’t approved.
Crosier said Wednesday he has received quotes from a different contractor that are lower than those on Weaver’s list of eight projects, which exceeded the money set aside for roadwork in the highway budget. He said the town board can’t approve Weaver’s quotes.
“We have an elected official that runs the highway department. It’s a 1.3-million-dollar budget…,” Councilman Joseph Golden said at the Aug. 13 board meeting. “We have obligations to get information before we authorize the spending of any money.”
Crosier criticized Weaver during the meeting for not taking advantage of special funds this year available through the state’s Department of Transportation, earmarked for fixing roads damaged during a rough winter.
A total of $40 million “winter recovery” money was allocated this year to reimburse local municipalities that spent money to “brace for future storms, longer lasting roadway surfacing and overlay projects,” Bryan Viggiani, a Department of Transportation spokesman, wrote in an e-mail.
The funds have to be spent before Feb. 6, 2015, and the department hasn’t received a reimbursement request for any of Berne’s allocation of $22,190.25, according to Viggiani.
Since the money for roadwork must be spent before the state reimburses towns, with winter approaching, substantial road work is less likely.
“So obviously we’re not doing any road work, and that’s a real shame,” Crosier said during the board meeting. “That’s $22,000 that could have gone a long way to repairing roads in the town that has 72 miles of road. That’s just uncalled for.”
Unsure of whether the town would be losing out on money, Weaver said his department did fix potholes and road damage after the past winter. With the roads list and the winter recovery money, Weaver said there isn’t enough communication between the town board and himself.
“This is possible,” Weaver said of missing the state funds, “but there is another thing where it would be a plus if we could work together and understand these things and get them done in a timely fashion.” He said he has no hard feelings toward the board.
The board voted on Weaver’s road repair list in September of last year, when Crosier commented on its tardiness and the lower temperatures in which the contractor Gorman Brothers would be paving the roads.
“I don’t think there was any reason why we couldn’t have the list any sooner,” Crosier said at the meeting in 2013. “The question now for me is, ‘How long will Gorman guarantee the workmanship?’ Last year, you were late on the roads again and they weren’t willing to guarantee the seal coat on the road.”
Then and now, Weaver says his list isn’t late. He said he can’t submit his final list of road repairs until he has readied the roads that need to be torn up and re-leveled.
“It took me this long to get the job done,” he said Tuesday. “Equipment has been down. I’ve been shy men.”
In other business, the town board:
— Heard from George Christian, president of the Thompson’s Lake Improvement Association, that signs at a public-access area maintained by the Department of Environmental Conservation have become inadequate and authorized Crosier to send a letter to the DEC on behalf of the town and the association.
“Most of the signs originally provided by DEC are missing, vandalized, poorly posted, or lack specific information to inform the public how they can protect and safely enjoy the lake,” Christian wrote in a letter to the town board;
— Agreed to direct the building inspector to investigate a complaint about an unsafe building on Woodstock Lake;
— Heard from Councilwoman Karen Schimmer, seniors liaison, about a Renaissance fair seniors will attend on Aug. 23, and an open house, on Sept 5 at 7 p.m., where elderly people and their caregivers can learn about an adult day program in the Helderberg Lutheran Evangelical Church on Helderberg Trail;
— Heard from Schimmer, conservation board liaison, that intern Joseph Cleveland is evaluating wetland resources in the town and will give a presentation to the board;
— Heard from Crosier that an open house for the new wastewater treatment plant will be held on Aug. 23, from noon to 3 p.m. at the building on 2 Testa Terrace. The road leading to the plant was named after Fred Testa, environmental project manager for the state’s Environmental Facilities Corporation.
“He made it possible and that’s why his name is going on the street down there,” Crosier said;
— Awarded the lower of two bids, at $11,800, to Crisafulli Bros. Plumbing and Heating Contractors Inc. to install an air-conditioning system at the Berne library;
— Appointed Ronald Jordan, 4 to 0, to fill a vacancy on the zoning board of appeals. He had previously served on the zoning board. Councilwoman Dawn Jordan, his wife, recused herself from the vote.
When she was appointed to the planning board, Jordan told The Enterprise last January, the town attorney had advised that just one of them hold a board seat, not both. Ronald Jordan resigned from the zoning board when she was appointed to the planning board, which can submit advisory opinions on appeals or applications to the zoning board.
Golden said at the Aug. 13 meeting that no real conflict of interest is created by spouses serving on the zoning and town boards, which Town Attorney William Conboy acknowledged;
— Approved the library use policy;
— Appointed Scott Green, 5 to 0, as a temporary transfer station operator and parks employee;
— Voted, 5 to 0, to advertise for a part-time transfer station operator and parks employee; and
— Voted, 5 to 0, to set a Sept. 10 public hearing at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall for extending a moratorium on hydrofracking.