Randall Bates, Rensselaerville highway superintendent candidate
RENSSELAERVILLE — After retiring from a career in the state’s Department of Transportation, Randall Bates sought an elective office in Rensselaerville to remain productive, in the thick of ice and snow coming down on the town’s long, rural roads.
He wants to do it again, running unopposed for a four-year term, with enthusiasm for a plan to rebuild town roads.
“It’s actually having a road-management plan that we’re establishing, I’m excited about that,” Bates said of his running. “I’m excited about our modernizing our winter activities, using a more timely application of materials, changing the ratio we apply of salt to sand, developing and operating our equipment more efficiently.”
Bates, 63, is an enrolled Conservative, endorsed by the Independence Party, Republicans, and his own party. He worked for the state last as a highway-maintenance supervisor II in southern Albany County and has conducted ice and snow training throughout the state. He says he has brought this experience to bear on the town’s highway department by anticipating weather, training workers, and reconstructing road bases to be more durable
In the winters, Bates said his first concern is the safety of school buses. Anticipating storms, he said he checks roads as early as 3:30 a.m. on school days.
“We have weather that’s unique to the Hilltowns, what might not be the same weather that’s the same in Greenville, or Middleburgh, or Cairo,” said Bates.
Bates said he has worked to make his department’s response predictable, getting on the road early, and calibrating its application of the sand-salt mixture depending on the temperature and types of roads.
The town, like most, shares equipment and services when other municipalities are in need, Bates said, but a formal plan for plow-route efficiencies wouldn’t be as favorable as shared bidding and professional services, like technology consulting, engineering, legal, and accounting services.
“Primarily, I think we could do that,” Bates said of town plows managing some state and county routes. “I don’t know that the county or state could actually do our roads, because they are so unique and atypical.”
“I think it’s something we need to initiate,” Bates said of intermunicipal sharing of expensive equipment and professional services. “We’re informally sharing equipment but we really need to collectively purchase some equipment and really make that a program and establish a protocol.”
Rensselaerville’s highway department makes up half of the town’s overall appropriations. The superintendent is paid about $42,000 per year. Bates said he has been able to find savings in fuel costs. But he wants to see as part of the budget a plan for covering, even in small increments, equipment replacement.
“We really need to be putting into a capital fund about $88,000 a year, which really is a large amount for the Town of Rensselaerville,” said Bates.
The road management Bates is excited about involves rebuilding the town’s roads, six to eight inches deep, milling and recycling the stone, and sometimes laying down a geo-textile fabric to separate the layers of the road. He said the department gets to reconstructing about three-and-a-half miles a year but did not give any commitments to where the work could be expected in the future because it is subject to changes in the budget.
“Continue improving our roads; continue reconstructing our bases where they need to be constructed, not to take short cuts,” said Bates of the next four years. “In my opinion, it’s quality that is far more important than quantity.”