ROTTERDAM – The Town Board and the town highway superintendent are at odds over who is paving the town’s streets and what streets should be paved.
The battle between the town and Highway Superintendent Larry Lamora got heated Wednesday evening during a public comment period at the Town Board meeting. Lamora addressed town officials for more than the four minutes allotted for public input when Town Supervisor Steven Tommasone took a political jab at Lamora.
“You want to blame everybody else for your missteps and your inability, but you know what?,” Tommasone said. “You have to live in Rotterdam in order to be highway superintendent.”
Tommasone said town employees – whom he did not name – told him Lamora doesn’t live in town.
Lamora said he lives on Evans Road with his mother and owns two additional properties in Rotterdam, one in Glenville and one in Duanesburg.
Town Board member Joe Guidarelli and Town Clerk Diane Marco criticized Tommasone after he said at the meeting that he was surprised Lamora didn’t have an opponent in this year’s election.
The issue between the two parties stems from whether the town entered into a one- or two-year contract with Callanan Industries to pave town roads.
Lamora said the Callanan contract was for one year – 2020 – and included a clause to add a second or third year to the contract if the relevant parties agreed. Lamora said the town passed a resolution stating that Callanan would pave the roads through 2021, but he said the resolution does not reflect what was agreed upon in the bid contract.
During Lamora’s comments Tommasone became increasingly frustrated, shaking his head, and told Deputy Supervisor Evan Christou that Lamora was lying about not knowing that the agreement was for a two-year contract.
“Everyone knows it’s a two-year contract but you,” Tommasone said during the meeting.
Documents provided by the town show Michael Mastropietro, a vice president at Callanan, signed the document noting they would do the paving for this year.
But Lamora said Callanan has come back and asked for more money to do the work. In 2020 the town paid $4.73 per square yard of road paved and then Callanan tacked on overages, or additional costs, Lamora said. When he talked to Callanan about paving roads this year, Lamora said, the company upped the price to $6.95 per square yard and wanted to add in a half-inch more of blacktop on the roads. He said he doesn’t want that.
“I want to go out to bid again,” he said Friday.
Tommasone said the company agreed to pave for the original price they bid for the project.
Callanan did not return a request for comment.
Lamora said he has no one lined up to do street paving this year. He also said there is a draft plan detailing which streets are scheduled for paving over the next several years that he doesn’t agree with either. He said the plan has him paving roads this year he’s recently paved.
“Why would I go back and pave those roads again,” he asked Friday.
Tommasone said during the meeting those roads have to be done again because the infrastructure wasn’t fixed the first time around. He also called Lamora ineffectual, saying Lamora does not follow the timeline that other municipalities do for determining which roads will be paved. Rather than having a list of roads together for the board in December, Lamora waits until after he’s driven over the town roads in April to prepare his list.
It’s something the town board has worked with over the years, said board member Samantha Miller-Herrera, but it does not make the contracting process easy. She said she was frustrated with Lamora’s “ability to prepare for something that happens every year.”
The town wants to spend money on infrastructure and fixing the roads but wants to ensure it spends the money in a fiscally responsible way, Miller-Herrera said.
Tommasone said it’s time to do away with the elected position of highway superintendent.
“Rotterdam needs a full-time engineer in charge of all DPW (Department of Public Works) operations including the Highway Department,” he said Friday. “It is time to eliminate the elected position of superintendent and have a professional engineer running these vital operations. Taxpayers will be better served.”
Lamora said he would like to have an engineer for the town but doesn’t believe they should oversee all the public work departments, including the Highway Department.
“How is an engineer going to direct all of the workforce across all departments?” he asked.
He also said most towns have an elected highway superintendent.
“People have the right to choose who they want to be their highway superintendent,” he said.