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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 14, 2009

Berne highway race heats up as would-be super slams foreman

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — Highway worker Kevin Kemmet, who wants to run for highway superintendent this fall, is accusing the town supervisor, the highway superintendent, and fellow highway workers of covering up an accident, though they say Kemmet is simply stirring the muck to boost his campaign.

Kemmet said he hopes to run on the Democratic line. The incumbent, Ray Storm, is a Democrat. Storm has not returned phone calls from The Enterprise since March.

In March, Kemmet wrote a letter to the Enterprise editor, published this week, citing an accident that, he said, occurred on March 11, involving fellow highway worker Joseph Welsh running over the plow of a town truck.

“I personally have labeled Joe as untouchable,” Kemmet wrote in his letter. “He seems to have a way of being involved in numerous incidents without repercussions…”

“I can tell you this guy has it out for me,” Welsh said this week. “I’m a foreman here. What he’s talking about is, I backed out of a garage with a 10-wheeler and got cornered a little bit with a snowplow. I pulled ahead, thinking I could get ahead of it. There was hardly any damage — a couple bolts damaged on the plow,” he said.

Kemmet feels that the incident is a reflection of Welsh’s general performance. According to a letter from Marshall and Sterling Insurance, the town’s insurance broker, obtained by The Enterprise through a Freedom of Information Law request to the town, there have been three insurance claims for accidents in the highway department since Jan. 1, 2008. Of those three, two involved Welsh.

One incident on Feb. 13, 2008, occurred when Welsh was plowing a town road, “when pavement broke, and plow caught pavement, causing vehicle to roll over,” the letter says. “It was a 2004 International [truck] and the driver was Joseph Welsh.” Selective Insurance Group, Berne’s insurance carrier, paid $167,435.66 for the damage.

The second of these incidents occurred on Jan. 5, 2009, when Welsh pulled into a Mobil station to get a cup of coffee, and the parking lot was icy, causing Welsh’s truck to slide into a pole that holds the canopy over the gas pumps, the letter says.

“The vehicle involved was the 2007 Sterling, and the driver was Joseph Welsh,” the letter goes on. Selective Insurance paid $6,045.50 to the town for the vehicle damage, and still has a file open on the damage to the canopy.

The March 11 incident, as written in Kemmet’s letter to the editor, is not listed in the letter from Marshall and Sterling because “there was no accident,” Supervisor Kevin Crosier said this week.

“They have to report any damage to town property to me,” Crosier said. “Evidently, [Welsh] backed the truck out of the building, but, there was no damage done to the plow, so, there was no accident to report,” he said.

Welsh agreed: “The amount of damage that was done is nothing,” he said. “I’ve told this guy flat out — I don’t like him, I haven’t liked him, and I will never like him.”

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