Clarkstown’s Highway Department Drama

BY MARIA BROWNSELL

Recently there has been lot of talk about the Highway Department in the Town of Clarkstown. Somehow a member of the public got a copy of a confidential report by Public Sector HR Consultants LLC and posted it on the internet. This has caused many mixed feelings.

Wayne Ballard, the Highway superintendent, was interviewed at the beginning of the study, but was never followed up with after the other participants spoke, many of whom were persons with grudges against him over a decade old.

“A review should take both sides into account,” said Ballard.

The report often mentioned five individuals that felt certain ways about their job, their work conditions and their supervisors. Ballard said that the taxpayers are the ones that hire him and it isn’t right for anonymous people to file complaints.

Stephen Levine, from Congers, asked why a report was asked for and which other town departments will be reviewed next. He also asked about the cost of the report, which turned out to be around $25,000. Levine said he feels that Ballard is being attacked with no just cause.

Marge Hook asked about Fleet Manager Dennis Malone. She asked why Malone claims the busses need to be cleared in the afternoon and again in the morning when they were already checked the night before. Ballard assured her that Malone was just following federal regulations and doing the right thing.

Ballard made it clear that he did not ask anyone to speak on his behalf. He said he thinks it’s a crime that the report was aired out in the public and that the Highway Department was been torn apart. However, Ballard critics have contended it might be him who has committed crimes, as they noted the report has been forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office. Ballard’s former confidential assistant Frank Sparaco had been charged with electoral petition violations by the DA’s Office recently, and critics have suggested Sparaco may have inappropriately used Highway Dept. resources for his campaign activities, an accusation Sparaco has called absurd.

Moving on from the Highway Dept. drama, Clarkstown’s lighting district has been working on a project. They have been trying to purchase the overhead street lights on their roads from Orange and Rockland. By doing this, they will be able to save 50 percent of their current costs. The lights and the arms would be owned by the town, not the poles. Orange and Rockland has not been easy to negotiate a price with, said lawyer Dan Duthie.

The town had offered $500,000 to purchase the lights, but O&R wanted $1.1 million. After much back and forth the settled number was $691,619. Further discussion on what to do from here will take place at a future meeting.

Another topic of discussion was the future of the Davenport Preserve. This piece of land includes the Zippy Fleisher House, and many other small structures which are all in very poor shape. Peter Beary, building inspector, Rob Berdy, purchase agent and Jose Simoes, town planner discussed the condition of all the structures on the property. The Zippy Fleisher house would cost between $150 – $200,000 to fix. It would cost about $12,000 to demolish all the structures on the property.

The town has been receiving calls from residents about the condition of the buildings as they get more and more dilapidated. The question for the town board was to decide on fixing or demolishing the buildings. There isn’t much room in the current budget for this project, so they will need to figure out what to do. If the building or buildings are restored, they need a purpose. There is also a covenant on the property that says no new buildings could be built.

There were reported discrepancies about the land being used to put the Police Emergency Storage Facility, which had a lease authorized to the Rockland County Sewer District. The agreement details have not been returned yet. Some residents are concerned that this will start a precedent allowing other storage stations to also be built on the property along the reservoir. Gromack and other board members agreed they would set up a meeting with the concerned citizens to discuss the plans.