The town’s highway department, led by Superintendent Dan Hitchcock, saved a good deal of money in its last budget cycle with $290,411.45 unexpended for 2010.
Hitchcock has felt his department’s under fire from the town board at a time when he’s dealt with back-to-back natural disasters and needs to replace aging equipment.
No raises for Hitchock after his efforts to save so much money while improving roads is shameful, Arsenault said.
“It’s a sign of the times,” Goodspeed countered.
Goodspeed said he’s dealing with angry town employees who only sit a few feet from him at town hall.
Hitchcock said he’s cut overtime and two positions with the understanding that unexpended funds would stay with his department for new equipment.
Hitchock has saved money with a new machine to mix road-making materials that takes half the time and half the crew to operate. He’s tightened up crew hours in winter, reducing overtime.
He said that keeping his older highway equipment alive is becoming more challenging as it ages. Parts are often unavailable from the manufacturer, and equipment can sit unused for weeks if a replacement is hard to find.
Before the storms this year, the department had enough funds to replace a 20-year-old loader and a 27-year-old tractor. Most of that had to go back to the roads this year following rain damage.
A cost-saving measure to repair North Creek’s craggy sidewalks is being pursued by the highway department. Hitchcock’s looking at sweat equity with county highway to help fund sidewalk repairs in North Creek, where Main Street is a county road, said Goodspeed.
“When it’s tough times, you should circle the wagons around essential services,” Goodspeed said.
Highway is one of those essentials. People need to get to and from work and visit loved ones with limited mobility; school buses need to pick up kids.