New DPW commish in favor of consolidation of county and town depts

The Enterprise — Michael Koff
Newly appointed Albany County Department of Public Works Commissioner Lisa Ramundo stands with a county worker at one of the department's highway garages in New Scotland.

ALBANY COUNTY — Lisa Ramundo is the first women to serve as the commissioner of the Albany County Department of Public Works. A former engineer for New York’s Department of Transportation and in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, she credits her recent appointment to experience overseeing the construction of roads, bridges, and other structures.

She also is interested in finding ways to save the county money, including consolidating municipal and county services.

Ramundo was chosen following the departure of Darrell Duncan, who has taken a seat on the county legislature.

Growing up in Albany, she attended Albany High School and then Union College where she obtained her civil engineering degree.

“I grew up here,” she said, “I feel like I belong here.”

After that, Ramundo worked with the New York State Department of Transportation, first as a geotechnical engineer from 1990 to 1991, and then designing bridges and highways until 1998. She then worked as a traffic engineer in Charlotte. Last year, she returned to the Albany area to work for the county’s department of general services in its facilities engineering department.

Some of her projects including adding a new egress at the Times Union Center parking garage in Albany and updating the facilities at Lawson Lake Park in Coeymans.

The challenge with that project, said Ramundo, was the aging non-operational infrastructure that no longer complied with today’s codes; the pipes connected to cabins ran above ground, and the septic system didn’t meet regulations. A well at the park was tested and its water was found to be not potable.

Ramundo’s plan involved creating a treatment system for the well-water and establishing a sewage treatment system so sewage wouldn’t have to be transported elsewhere. The project is expected to break ground in two years. She will no longer be heading the project, but hopes to have a hand in what goes on, she said.

Ramundo also feels her experience with the public and public hearings has helped her. She recalled a project she did for the DOT where a bridge over Squirmer Valley Creek in the Catskills had to be replaced and she had to communicate with the public. Those concerned included vacationers from downstate who didn’t want the bridge to lose its historic value.

“We have to take public opinion into account,” she said.

The DOT tried to keep the historic stone walls intact, and worked with New York’s State Historic Preservation Office to make sure the historic value was respected.

Communication does not necessarily mean everyone is satisfied, she said, but it can leave people feeling like they have been heard and that they may even benefit from the outcome.

Ramundo said that many of her goals, as a new commissioner, are broad plans rather than specific tasks. However, she does intend to complete by the end of 2017 the paving of the rail trail that stretches from the Port of Albany to Voorheesville, she said. Her other main goal is consolidation of services.

“It’s a win-win for both parties,” said Ramundo, who said that consolidation of municipal and county services, such as in the highway department, can save money for all agencies involved, so long as it is done correctly.

The Knox supervisor wants to share a new highway garage with the county, and Berne has been considering merging services with the county for some time now, currently electing to conduct a study on the outcome of such a merger (see related story). It’s not only municipalities; the Voorheesville School District has considered the county maintain its fleet of vehicles as well.

One of the other ways to save money and effort is to invest in more efficient equipment, said Ramundo.

Ramundo said that her department is — and has been — answering the rally by politicians and others to repair aging infrastructure.

“That’s exactly what we do,” she said. “Our roads are the best maintained within the city and state.”

Some of the county’s goals this year are to resurface 25 miles of county roads, replace three culverts in Westerlo, and reconstruct two bridges in Berne, she said.

Ramundo said her field is notably male-dominated, but her position as the first female DPW commissioner for Albany County does not dissuade her.

“I feel pressure, like, as a person; not as a woman,” she said. She added that she treats everyone she works with with respect, and expects the same in turn.

“I’ve always felt respect from my coworkers,” she said.

She also will be following a commissioner who worked for years within municipal highway and county DPW departments.

“It’s funny, because whenever you start a new job, you are an outsider,” said Ramundo. “I know that there will be a learning curve.”

But, she added, returning to an area she knows well has helped her fit in.

“In the grand scheme of things, I feel like an insider,” she said.


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