Knox grader breaks in midst of ‘one of the worst years for holes’

The Enterprise — H. Rose Schneider
In need of repair: The Knox Town Board agreed to spend up to $13,000 to repair the town’s broken grader. Highway Superintendent Gary Salisbury said a new one could cost $225,000 or more.

KNOX — This has been one of the worst winters for road repairs, according to Knox highway superintendent Gary Salisbury, and now his grader is broken.

He told the town board members at their Feb. 14 meeting that the Champion grader has a leak in its radiator. “The core is shot...It’s a real bad leak in the head gasket,” said Salisbury. “All six pistons are cracked.”

The grader had been used for about 5,000 hours and the best option was to rebuild, Salisbury said. A new grader would cost $225,000 or more, he said. Other options would be renting a grader for $10,000 a month or buying a remanufactured engine for $13,000.

Supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis asked if the rebuild would get another 20 years from the machine.

“At least five,” replied Salisbury. He also said, “We do use it a lot...This is probably one of the worst years for holes.”

“Thirteen thousand dollars is a big unexpected nut,” said Lefkaditis, who has made it a hallmark of his administration to save town funds, coming in under budget.

“I won’t spend a dime more than I have to,” said Salisbury.

Twenty-five to 30 percent of town roads in Knox are dirt roads. Lefkaditis lives on one of them and said his truck was damaged by the rough terrain this winter.

Ultimately, the board decided to spend up to $13,000 to rebuild the engine on the grader Knox already has, which Salisbury said would take about two weeks.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Held a public hearing, at which no members of the public spoke, on changes made to the town’s zoning law last year to allow for large solar arrays.

“We had to clean it all up,” said Robert Price, chairman of the Knox Planning Board, explaining the need for a second hearing on an already-adopted law. He said a 2-megawatt solar farm is about to be approved and two more large arrays are being considered by the planning board;

— Agreed to grant veterans living in Knox the maximum tax exemption allowed by law. The increased tax break will cost those in Knox who are not exempted veterans an additional 14 cents per household each year, according to figures Lefkaditis said he had worked out with the town’s assessor, Russell Pokorny.

“I want to thank Knox for being the first one in the area to do this,” said Knox resident and Vietnam War veteran Ed Ackroyd, to applause.

Ackroyd had lobbied for the change but pointed out earlier in the meeting, “I’m already at my max. This does not help me one bit”;

— Decided to come up with a policy for residents to use town hall. “This belongs to them as much as us,” said Lefkaditis.

Councilman Daniel Hanley volunteered to work up a fee schedule, perhaps with a deposit that would be refunded if no cleanup were needed after the event;

— Discussed plans for a town-wide festival, using a name from Knox history — the Pucker Street Fair. The carnival will be held July 8 and 9 and will include a beer tent provided by Chris Smith, a county legislator who owns Maple on the Lake Restaurant, as well as carnival rides, Lefkaditis said.

“I have a loose commitment from the sheriff to pay for fireworks,” Lefkaditis said of Craig Apple. “He said, ‘I’ll take care of it.’”

Last year, Lefkaditis, working with Laura Pasquini, helped host a Fall into Knox Festival and Carnival. “Last year, the board wanted to be more involved,” Lefkaditis said;

— Discussed appointing Mark Jacobson as a town engineer. Price, who interviewed Jacobson, said he is a civil engineer who lives in Altamont. “Take him,” Price urged, calling Jacobson a “great guy.”

Lefkaditis said, with large-scale solar arrays applying to Knox, the planning board wants its own engineer to examine the plans with the solar company paying for his work.

Town attorney John Dorfman recommended hiring him, not as an officer of the town but rather “on a project basis”;

— Heard that a free rabies clinic is being held by Albany County on March 18 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Berne highway garage. An $8 contribution per shot would be welcomed. Cats and ferrets are getting vaccinated from 1 to 2:20 p.m. and dogs from 2:30 to 4 p.m.;

— Scheduled a walk-through of town facilities for Tuesday, Feb. 21, at 10 a.m.;

— Discussed setting an hourly wage for contractors at $18 per hour. “Pay them more than our highway guys?” asked Hanley. “That’s kind of crappy.”

The board unanimously settled on $15 per hour. “I don’t know whose guys work for that, other than highway guys,” said Salisbury;

— Set terms for members of the Knox Conservation Advisory Council since, Lefkaditis said, by law “They can only have two-year terms.” Kevin Sherman, Nathan Giordano, and Eric Kuck will have their terms expire on Dec. 31, 2017, and Tony Forti, Patricia Irwin, Dee Woessner, and Peter Shunney will have their terms expires on Dec. 31, 2018.

Councilwoman Amy Pokorny noted that the CAC could have up to nine members. “We have another applicant,” she said.

“I know prior to me coming along, the CAC did absolutely nothing,” said Lefkaditis. “I’m fine with seven; nine is too much.”

“Why not send it back to them, and ask,” Councilman Earl Barcomb suggested, which the town board decided to do; and

— Met in closed session “regarding a legal matter.”

More Hilltowns News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.