New Lebanon board balks at purchase of replacement backhoe


NEW LEBANON, N.Y. >> Never let it be said that one vote doesn't matter.

The town was left without a functioning backhoe this week after the board failed to muster the necessary votes to purchase a replacement unit.

The vote was 2-2, with member Chuck Geraldi absent.

Town Supervisor Colleen Teal told the board the one bid the town had — a Case backhoe at the state-negotiated price of $96,859 — offered more than $38,000 in trade-in on the now-defunct unit and an additional offer to purchase the town's old gravel screener.

But new board member Mark Baumli said he wanted to be sure that taxpayer money was spent wisely, and the town should solicit other bids.

Board member Dan Evans said he wasn't sure that the town should purchase another Case, given that the one being replaced has only 2,000 hours of use.

Highway Superintendent Jeff Winestock argued he'd had other Case equipment that had served him well; "Sometimes you get a lemon," he said.

If there's another storm, roads will wash out because of the lack of a backhoe to clean out drains, he warned. That would do "hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage."

After Winestock referred to Evans as "Mister Know-It-All" and Evans retorted that Winestock "sound[s] like Mr. Trump," Teal used her gavel to put an end to the discussion.

With Baumli and Evans voting against it, Kevin Smith's motion to approve the purchase failed to pass.

The town will solicit other bids, which will be opened on April 4.

The board also moved to rebid work on the town's two tennis courts, for both resurfacing and replacement. Some of the materials had decreased in cost, Evans said, and the bids may decrease from the previous bid of mid-$80,000.

Those bids will be opened on April 8.

In public comment, resident Rocky Brown said the town is "throwing the same amount of money" at the tennis courts as what a backhoe would cost.

"We have an agreement with neighboring towns," Evans said, suggesting the town could borrow equipment if necessary.

But several members of the audience said those towns will need their own equipment in the event of flooding from a heavy rainstorm.

"We live in the Northeast," Evans said, "It's part of the territory."

Resident Scott Larabee said at the least the board should "buy two shovels, because there are two members who're going to be [dragged] out of bed at 3 a.m." if storm drains plug up and there is no backhoe to free them.

In other action, the board agreed to:

• Permit the high school to provide a bench for future graduating classes to decorate, as a substitute for putting their handprints in cement at the school. They will also beautify the park, at the same time.

• Approved a "Uke and Brew" festival at the park Aug. 28, to be sponsored by the town's Recreation Department.

• Set April 14-15 for installing playground equipment, with a rain date of April 21-22.

• Agreed to reinstitute a town newsletter to go out at least twice annually.

• Asked town attorney Dan Tuczinski to look into the feasibility of enacting laws enabling the town to be apprised of responsible owners of derelict or abandoned houses so that they can be maintained.

Contact Gail Heinsohn, email


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