Let the Westerlo Town Board know your thoughts on how to spend $359K in federal funds

To the Editor:
This opinion is being written to request that your opinion be given to the members of the Westerlo Town Board.

First, some background. The Westerlo Town Board in early to mid-2020, took actions, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, to reduce the effects of the predicted loss of sales-tax budget revenues.

The town’s highway department was reduced from 7 to 5 full-time staff members. The town clerk’s office was reduced from 2.5 to 1.5 full-time staff members.

After cutbacks, your elected officials, Highway Superintendent Jody Ostrander and Clerk Kathleen Spinnato/Karla Weaver worked above and beyond their required duties to ensure the functioning of their departments.

To put the workload in perspective:

— There are over 90 center lane miles of town roads that provide over 575 Westerlo taxpayers access to and from their homes. The highway department was and still is completely responsible for the winter, spring, summer, and fall maintenance of these roads.

In addition, the five remaining staff members maintain the town of Westerlo’s parks, town building parking, and transfer area parking plus provide any and all necessary assistance to emergency services needed in town (24/7). They continued working even during their pandemic winter furlough;

— The services and assistance provided by the Westerlo town clerk’s staff for the more than 3,000 residents residing at the 2,000-plus parcels in the town of Westerlo is definitely too vast to document and beyond the scope of this opinion.

Jody, Kathleen, Karla and their respective staff members are to be commended for their devotion to the town of Westerlo and for sacrificing their personal time in 2020 and 2021.               

Second, the 2021 town of Westerlo budget. The Westerlo Town Board, still dealing with possible COVID-19 pandemic sales-tax losses, developed a budget that raised our town taxes by only slightly less than 6 percent. The Westerlo Town Board members’ due diligence and precautionary measures managed to financially allow the town to barely continue existence.

The Westerlo Town Board did not provide for the Westerlo Highway Department staff levels to be returned to a pre-COVID-19 state. Jody Ostrander was seen driving a plow truck, coordinating staff, repairing and/or coordinating the maintenance of highway equipment, etc. to ensure the necessary services were provided for Westerlo town road residents.

Is this what your elected Westerlo Highway Department supervisor should be forced to do? Jody and the other highway staff members helped get “Westerloians” through a long winter even while staff also dealt with COVID-19 and the pandemic. Salary alone does not give this type of dedication!

Third, a recent bright light for Westerlo and the Westerlo Highway Department? At the Westerlo Town Board workshop on April 6, the following was one of the agenda items: American Rescue Plan — COVID Relief.

Westerlo is slated to receive $359,355 over two years.

Listed use options include: Impacted Services; Water, Sewer, Broadband Infrastructure; Economic Assistance — Small Businesses, Households, Nonprofits; and Premium Pay.

Shouldn’t/wouldn’t the above option — “Impacted Services” — suggest to the Westerlo Town Board members they should prioritize devoting some or all of the relief funds to replace the COVID-19 Westerlo Highway Department staffing casualties

There was discussion about using some of those funds for a lighted walk/bike path in the town of Westerlo park! How can park enhancement use of relief funds be prioritized over the safety of the Westerlo Highway Department staff and the Westerlo taxpayers?

Doesn’t the Westerlo Highway Department supervisor require the necessary staff to ensure that staff supervision can hopefully prevent accidents, like the one in Berne to highway employee Peter Becker?

What about use of some of the funds to assist in fixing the “blighted” residences in town?

A path from the town park parking lot to the Westerlo hamlet is nice, but isn’t that a luxury?

Even though the federal, state, county, etc. guidelines for use of the American Rescue Plan monies are unclear at this time, shouldn’t priorities leading, as close as possible, to a pre COVID-19 state be first and foremost in Westerlo Town Board members’ mindsets?

So, back to the top and the reason for this letter. Use your voice and power to let the Westerlo Town Board members know what you are thinking about the Westerlo Highway Department staffing situation and your thoughts about the use of any relief funds/tax dollars.

We all pay taxes for all highway infrastructures no matter the residence location and any relief funds are also tax dollars!


— Send an email to or send a letter to the Westerlo town clerk and be part of the town’s official written record with your wishes;

— Call or email a Westerlo Town Board member. Note, to achieve your desired impact, Westerlo Town Board members Amie Burnside and Rich Filkins have always opposed cutbacks to the Westerlo Highway Department;

— Attend Westerlo Town Board Zoom meetings. Details are on the website; or

— Write a letter to the Altamont Enterprise editor.

Thank you for reading, and considering action — and please stay well.

Barb Russell


More Letters to the Editor

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.