Keith Wright, Westerlo highway superintendent candidate
WESTERLO — Keith Wright likes being Westerlo’s highway superintendent.
“It’s not the same every day,” he said. “There’s always something different.”
Wright, who is 58, will have worked for the highway department for 20 years in June; he was foreman for six years and was appointed to the top spot 10 months ago.
He oversees not just the repair and maintenance of 54 miles of town roads but also oversees Westerlo’s landfill and its parks-and-recreation department.
The landfill has a full-time and part-time worker, and two full-time workers see to the care of the town’s two parks.
The highway department has eight crew members altogether, said Wright.
He said, “I try to do whatever I can for whoever I can with the funds I have.” The 2013 town budget lists a total of $964,965 for highway appropriations.
Asked about his biggest challenge as superintendent, Wright answered without hesitation, “Getting FEMA work settled.”
He was referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Tropical Storm Irene swept through Westerlo in August 2011, washing out several roads. Federal funds are to cover three-quarters of the repair costs with the remaining quarter to be covered by the state.
“We just finished the second large project,” said Wright, referring to fixing and paving Tan Hollow Road. “I had the final inspection today on Tan Hollow,” Wright said on Friday.
The other large project was repairing Lobdell Mill Road. He sent in the final paperwork for Lobdell Mill in May or June, Wright said, but hasn’t been paid yet. “We had a contractor do the work,” he said, explaining that, once the money comes in, the contractor will be paid.
“All the paperwork is done,” Wright concluded.
He said he’ll be pleased to get back to a regular road-maintenance schedule next year. The only road the town was able to pave this year was Dunbar Hollow, Wright said. He declined to name the roads he has in mind for next year, not wanting to raise false hopes.
Asked if he favored entering into shared-service agreements with the county or neighboring towns, Wright said, “We kind of do that already. If they need something, we’ll help them… If I need trucks, the county or other towns send them over.”
Wright said he prefers the current way of sharing to a more formal arrangement. “My personal opinion is, if you start putting legal issues in it, it’s too formal; there will be problems. It works good the way it is, on a handshake.”
When asked what he thought about the reasons for the Democrats’ dominance in Westerlo, Wright said, “I don’t work just for the Democrats. I work for everybody. I don’t work for the party; I feel I work for the people.”