CLIFTON PARK – Unused funds, allegedly nearly $700,000 worth, are at the center of a discussion between two Candidates for Clifton Park Highway Superintendent.
Michael Traider, a candidate running for Town Highway Superintendent issued a press release earlier this week calling for the town’s Highway Department to begin work paving as soon as possible. Trader believes the department starting later has contributed to a nearly $700,000 in funds which has been allocated to the Highway Department, but has not been used.
Traider was endorsed by the local Republican and Conservative parties. He said he has 20 years experience working for the Clifton Park Highway Department.
Incumbent Dahn Bull has been the town’s Highway Superintendent for the past six-and-a-half years. Bull will run in the Republican primary, and has been endorsed by the local Democratic and Working Families parties.
“In recent years the Highway Department has not begun paving until late into the Summer months, which has contributed to scheduling issues placing the Town workforce in a difficult position,” said Traider in a press release. “I recommend the Highway Department start paving as soon as possible following the opening of the plants that supply the material.”
Traider said the funds have not been fully spent for at least the past two years from the department’s paving and storm water funding allocation. He said in the past the department has been able to start in May some years, depending on the weather.
“The annual delayed start of paving has also likely contributed to the fact close to $700,000 in paving and storm water funding allocated by the Town Board in recent years has been left unspent,” Traider said in the releases. “There is no excuse for not fully and smartly spending all the paving money allocated by the Town Board so we can maximize our service to Clifton Park residents.”
The department has to be able to use its funding effectively and intelligently, Bull said.
“When it comes to major infrastructure improvements, it takes a significant amount of planning,” Bull said. “At the end of the day, when the town board just says, ‘look, here’s an extra million dollars- go pave,’ you just don’t want to throw money away. The town thinks throwing money at a problem fixes it but it’s going to take a lot of time to figure out how to use that money appropriately, and that’s what my job is. I have to find a way to use that money appropriately and effectively, and just because they give me a million dollars doesn’t mean I’m going to spend it all that year.”
The department has to fix what is under the road first before it can just put asphalt onto the road, Bull said.
The department’s funding for paving and storm water in part comes from state CHIPS funding (Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program), Bull said.
“They are also talking about CHIPS funding, Mike doesn’t have a good grasp on what that is,” Bull said. “CHIPS funding is used for many different things, not just paving. It’s state funding used for engineering, used new equipment, used for paving, used for cleaning. When I go to the town board and I ask for new equipment, and the Town Board says ‘no’ to new equipment, I can use the CHIPS funding. So he (Traider) is just confused, and he’s not really looking at the whole picture, he has this myopic viewpoint of what that money is used for, that’s state funding, that has nothing to do with the money in town, that’s state funds not town funds.”
Paving is dependent on weather, Bull said. When nights are colder it can make paving more difficult the following morning, he said. Last year had a very cool spring, which led to paving starting later in the year, he said.
“The one thing I want everybody to know is everyday I go to work and I just want to make sure our roads are safe, and people can get to work, people can get to school, people can get wherever they need to go,” Bull said. “That’s my job, that’s my goal, but people want to play politics with our infrastructure, and that’s just a slippery slope that’s going to cause danger to everyone in our town.”
Paving and storm water go hand-in hand, said Town of Clifton Park Supervisor, Phil Barrett.
“The fact that there’s a significant amount of money that hasn’t been spent is troubling,” Barrett said. “And, that’s occurring while he’s (Bull) telling many people, that includes me in recent years, that the Town Board doesn’t give me enough money to pave your streets, so I can’t pave your streets. That’s basically the answer that many people are provided, and as we can see from that number, that’s obviously not the case.”
The CHIPS money is a part of the paving budget, Barrett said. It augments what the town allocates for paving, he said.
“If you’re not spending the money in your paving budget, whether it’s CHIPS money or direct funding from the town, it’s all in one number, there is no separation as far as we’re concerned,” Barrett said. “Both sources make up what our total budget will be, everything the Town Board allocates, plus what we know the CHIP funds will be well in advance and that all goes in one grouping of what the total spend will be in a given year.”
Clifton Park Deputy Supervisor Anthony Morelli said he is also concerned.
“As a Board Member,” Morelli said. “I am concerned that the efforts and energy of the Highway Superintendent are focused on politics and creating issues that simply do not exist instead of what is required by law of a Highway Superintendent and expected by our residents. Unfortunately, this is eerily similar to what I witnessed first hand over the past 18 months. This Board has authorized significant funding for repaving of our Town roads and unlike last year, I expect that money to get utilized as such.”
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