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2 towns' highway departments battle winter without leaders

2 towns' highway departments battle winter without leaders

'While we're getting through this, we do need someone who carries the responsibility of that position'
2 towns' highway departments battle winter without leaders
A plow clears a street in February 2015.
Photographer: Daily Gazette file photo

SARATOGA COUNTY — The highway departments for two Saratoga County communities have been salting, sanding and clearing roads of snow in the absence of leadership. 

On Dec. 20, Charlton Highway Superintendent Michael Emerich, who held the post for the past 10 years, resigned. 

"The decision to resign from my position and move from my hometown is not an easy one," Emerich stated in his resignation letter. "Life changes, sometimes in the blink of an eye, and decisions need to be made. An opportunity has presented itself to me, and I am choosing to pursue it."

Charlton Town Supervisor Alan Grattidge said Emerich's resignation came as a surprise. 

"He never had a discussion with me or any of the other Town Board members," Grattidge said. "It was surprising to us, especially since he just ran for re-election for another term."

Over the past two weeks, Grattidge said the town has experienced numerous snow and freezing rain events. 

"We've dealt with heavy winds, which cause snow drifts, so we've been working to make sure the roads are plowed," he said. "While we're getting through this, we do need someone who carries the responsibility of that position."

Grattidge said David Armitage, a town foreman, has taken on the additional responsibilities while the town interviews candidates. 

"Myself and a few of the Town Board members have stopped in and have been working with David and his clerk to make sure we have enough fuel, salt and materials to keep going," he said. "Our goal is to get someone in [to fill the superintendent post] in the next month."

Armitage said the Highway Department maintains 47 miles of town roads while ensuring town buildings are supplied with propane. 

"It's a little harder, being that it's winter, because the roads need to be taken care of," he said. "The first two weeks after Mike left, most of us had 30 to 35 hours of overtime."

Grattidge said the town's Highway Department has six full- and two part-time employees. 

The highway superintendent, Grattidge said, would have to be a town resident and have road construction, machinery maintenance and administration experience. 

"We have just over 4,000 people in the town, so it probably reduces the number of people who are going to be able to come in and look at the job," he said. "We've gotten a couple of resumes, so we're reviewing those, and we're hoping to find a candidate soon to move the process along."

Grattidge said the post is an elected position, so the candidate would have run for election in November in order to finish out Emerich's term. 

The candidate would also have to run again in 2019, if he or she chose to seek another term. 

"This is the time of year when you've got to be watching the weather constantly and making sure the equipment and manpower is ready," Grattidge said. "While there are opportunities for someone to learn the business, you learn the most on the job." 

The village of South Glens Falls hasn't had a highway superintendent or a highway maintenance supervisor all winter. 

Mayor Harry Gutheil said the village was looking to upgrade the position to a superintendent, but he hasn't received the applicant pool he was looking for. 

He added that the maintenance supervisor is not a Civil Service position and, therefore, does not require an exam. 

"We've been using our current staff, and we have a working foreman who's been covering it," Gutheil said. "Our streets are well maintained, and we have a good crew who does a good job."

Gutheil said the village is in the middle of interviewing candidates. 

"We're anxious to fill it," he said. "Being short staffed is always difficult."

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