Highway super won’t submit data for long-term plan

To the Editor:

The Berne superintendent of highways inappropriately used his public Facebook page to deliberately misrepresent the town board’s efforts to responsibly and adequately staff and equip the highway department.

Mr. Bashwinger was made aware last year that the town board wanted empirical data from his department to better budget for long-term department needs. The impetus for a needs assessment results from the fact that the highway department consumes the largest percentage of the town budget.

A needs assessment is a valuable component of a five-year spending plan.

A needs assessment, conducted by an independent consultant, would do two things: First, it would objectively evaluate current budget spending, and second, it would develop a five-year plan to provide greater long-term fiscal management. This would help minimize unexpected, unanticipated expenses.

Mr. [Randy] Bashwinger now inappropriately suggests on his Facebook page that we are wasting taxpayer dollars by hiring an independent consultant to assess the department. Instead, Mr. Bashwinger suggests he is capable of conducting the assessment himself.

He also implies we are unwilling to replace old equipment. This is simply not true.

There are a couple problems with his assertions. First, the town board needs an evaluation of highway-department spending from an independent, professional perspective for meaningful oversight of that spending, and the second problem is that he has had a year to provide such documentation.

Three different times, Councilmember [Karen] Schimmer went so far as to give Mr. Bashwinger a sample format for a five-year plan from the state comptroller, which would have simplified his task.

Each time the request was trivialized and ignored. Instead, his priority was to spend the better part of each workday driving to and from Albany to sit at a paid political job with the GOP rather than completing the relevant document.

Mr. [Dennis] Palow, the deputy supervisor, expressed outrage that, rather than hiring an independent consultant, we should have trusted Mr. Bashwinger’s assessment of highway needs.

Unfortunately, Mr. Bashwinger never presented the town board with a document outlining those needs.

Mr. Palow knows very well we have repeatedly, objectively and openly requested information from the highway superintendent. We encourage anyone to review town board meeting recordings for verification.

The town has been fortunate to have a highly effective deputy superintendent of highways, Ed Hampton, who has worked cooperatively and effectively with the board and very regularly attends board meetings.

In April of 2019, he provided a detailed inventory to provide information we had previously requested and discussed. The document lists all the department’s vehicle and equipment assets. It includes odometer readings and the clocked hours on vehicles and equipment as well as general description, age, etc.

As a result of a discussion at the July meeting, Mr. Hampton is adding a column to estimate the remaining service life of these assets. He is adding this column based on the board’s understanding that some catastrophic and other equipment failure is not easily predicted in older equipment and his evaluation is to be used for longer-term budget planning purposes only.

Mr Hampton’s perspective and opinion regarding the anticipated remaining service life of these assets is also a very valuable part of a five-year plan.

While the superintendent of highways spends his days with the GOP leadership in Albany and sitting around posting misrepresentations by phone on his Facebook page, others are clearly working to promote the best interests of the taxpayers. 

Joel Willsey

Dawn Jordan

Karen Schimmer


Editor’s note: The letter writers are Democratic members of the Berne Town Board. The Enterprise covered Randy Bashwinger’s part-time political county job this spring (April 19, 2019).

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