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Conversations Between Clarkstown Highway Superintendent Candidates

Here are your two candidates: Clarkstown Mini-Trans Transit Supervisor Dennis Malone: Democrat; Incumbent Wayne Ballard: Republican, Conservative, Working Families, Independence

With elections approaching, the Clarkstown Highway Superintendent candidates had more questions for each other. Patch facilitated each party’s questions and here are their answers on the following topics:

In 2003, Commercial Vehicle Consultants performed a report on the audit and inspection of the Highway Department’s Vehicle Repair Shop and Maintenance Programs. In 2009, Malone performed a second report.

Malone:  In my 2009 report and the 2003 consultant’s report, it showed that morale at the Highway Department garage was low. They should have lunch together. In doing that, they would become a team and discuss and brainstorm solutions for vehicle repairs.  I sit down and eats lunch with my mechanics every day; I go out on the road, drive the buses and fix the buses with them.  

Wayne’s Response:  Dennis Malone fails to understand that the CHD is more than just a mechanics’ shop; it is a full service department. The idea of sitting with all of the 80 employees consisting of 15 crews, a sign shop, mechanics’ shop, road inspector, sweeper crew, litter crew, operations and the administrative office would result in getting nothing done with respect to the duties of the Highway Superintendent.  The moral issue referenced in the report refers solely to “the maintenance supervisor of the Highway Mechanics’ Shop” … But that issue is never seen during times of need such as the response to snow storms, hurricanes, and flooding emergencies.

In the 14 years being a highway superintendent, I have never been let down in getting what was needed when this department needed it from the Mechanics’ Shop. When we are short snow drivers or short on leaf crews, I have never had a mechanic refuse to jump in - out of title - to help out. Considering the reduction in staff from 98 to 76, we as a department are clearly doing more with less. Since being in office, has there ever been a time when roads were not efficiently cleared so the public can quickly go about their business?

Consider that Mini Trans has two mechanics for 11 of the same light duty “mini” busses whereas Highway has only seven mechanics for 138 pieces consisting of heavy duty trucks, excavating equipment, sweepers, a Jet Vac, mason dumps, compactors/garbage trucks, graders, backhoes, loaders, leaf vacuums, rolloff trucks, pickups, SUV’s, etc., etc…

Dennis Malone’s report dated 6/11/09 consists of two pages of information copied from the previous consultant’s report and is politically motivated to position him to run as highway superintendent.  The only thing worth noting in Dennis Malone’s report was the use of a “go-fer” to pick up parts and help clean the shop. However upon the retirement of the employees of the parts department for both the Police Garage and Highway, the consultant hired by me showed how those two employees were not needed and the need to have a parts runner was also not needed because the local auto parts stores provide both of these services which Malone didn’t get right. Additionally the Highway has used Fleetmax and now utilizes another computer program to monitor the Highway automotive shop.

Malone: In 2003 Ballard’s garage was failing so badly that they brought in Commercial Vehicle Consultants (CVC).  In Malone’s report, nothing changed, it only deteriorated more.

Wayne’s Response: The consultant was brought in by me to see what was needed to update the mechanics’ shop. Since that report, I continue to ask the mechanics for their training needs.Also since that report, the Clarkstown Highway Department developed a hazardous communication program second-to-none and a spill response plan both of which have been utilized by other highway departments and equipment purchases. Clarkstown Highway has an open door policy to PESH and the union safety team, both of which praised Highway for its programs. Could more be done, yes, but certainly a lot has been done.

Malone:  In June 2009, Wayne Ballard sent a memo to Joe Passarella, the shop foreman at the Highway Department saying that the following was observed:  “Overall cleanliness of the mechanics area was observed to be poor.  Dust, dirt and debris were found in many work locations.” Passarella’s department needed to “implement housekeeping practices…which includes Parts Clerk, Auto Mechanics and Auto Mechanic Assistants, and adhere to this practice every working day between 2:30 p.m. and 3:15 p.m.” 

With these mechanics cleaning and not working on the trucks, that cost the town about $60,000.  They have mechanics working an average of also $40 per hour over there sweeping and cleaning the garage instead of working on the trucks and vehicles.  I told him in my report that he should send them for training and they shouldn’t be cleaning, they should be just mechanics and there should be a part time guy to clean the garage.  In July 2009, Ballard asked Malone to do a report on his mechanic’s shop.

Wayne’s Response: That is correct.  Just like with the field crews, at the end of the day before we leave, it is clean up time. Whether it’s a drainage crew, sign crew, sweeper, tree crew, or mechanic, time is provided to care for the equipment, clean up the site and put the tools away. The Town of Clarkstown cannot afford every employee to have a personalized cleaner. 

Consolidating Clarkstown Garages

Malone: It was my idea to consolidate the three garages, which I suggested in my 2009 report of the Highway Department’s garage to Wayne Ballard.

Wayne’s Response: Yes it was Dennis Malone’s idea to consolidate the three garages; however his idea didn’t result in any savings for the Town of Clarkstown and as such his idea was rejected by the Supervisor’s office. Dennis Malone’s idea was to combine the three garages and increase his salary to oversee all three. Additionally, Dennis Malone was specifically asked to determine if the Highway Department needed to hire two mechanics to replace the two that recently retired. Dennis Malone was non-responsive on the issue for he had promised the Mechanics Shop not only promotions and hire two more mechanics and could not substantiate that rationale to management in the justification of the need.

When I was asked by the union why the two mechanics weren’t being replaced, I referenced the senior Maintenance Supervisor paperwork which reflected a low productivity rate.

Duties

Wayne: (What are Malone's) comment(s) on any of the following (given) his limited education?

  1. Traffic—The Highway Superintendent oversees Traffic Engineering Studies.
  2. Regulations-review and periodic action is required on incoming NYS Department of Transportation specification and standards, NYS Storm Water Regulations, etc.

Malone's Response: 

1. A couple of years ago, they closed the overpass for the thruway at Mountainview Avenue. It needed to be repaired. All the traffic of the people who lived in that are had to be funneled out the other way. Instead of being able to use Route 59, They all had to go through Valley Cottage through the worst intersection in the town of Clarkstown. 

I went to a meeting where all the Mountainview citizens were. They all wanted to know what (Ballard) would do. He said he would have the town order a traffic survey so he could spend $10,000 of taxpayers dollars. You have to have a cop there or have a temporary traffic light. Sometimes you have to use common sense. And have as much police as possible for the duration of the repairs

2. As the director of Mini-Trans, not only do I comply with all of those regulations but I’m certified Bus and truck accident training by the dept of transportation. 19A motor vehicle certified examiner. I deal with DOT regulations on a regular basis. (Most of my) buses are owned by the federal government. We have three owned by the town. I’m out there to save the town money. 

Wayne: What process would Dennis Malone use to determine if a road is ready for dedication? One of the duties of the Highway Superintendent is the process of road dedication. The Highway Superintendent must make a formal recommendation to the Town Board. This recommendation assures the Board that the subject road(s) are built pursuant to the Town’s specification, in geometry and correctness. Each road type has its own characteristics and specifications; how will Dennis Malone determine the correctness of a commercial spec. road vs. a residential road if he has no knowledge of road construction.

Malone's Response: I would do that through H2M Engineering. 95 percent is hands on get the job done, clean up the snow, pick up the leaves make sure the trucks are running right. There are 1000 storm drains in clarkstown 

Wayne: What experience does Dennis Malone have in reading and commenting on blueprints? The Highway Department routinely is part of the review process for new construction projects taken under consideration by the Town. This involves the review of plans and specification related to the project.

Malone's Response: A good friend of mine built a building in Manhattan in NYC. I do have the ability to read a blueprint.

Wayne: What experience does Dennis Malone have in emergency response situations?

Malone's Response: I’m the only clarkstown employee to go to 9/11 in the emergency situation. I was called by Charles Holbrook to take a bus with 15 cops to right to the world trade center and stayed there for 24 hours.

Hurricane Floyd, we dispactched busses and evacuated people whose homes were flooded in valley cottage and new city condos. Hurricane Irene, I worked side by side with the police. I was in the emergency response center all night long.

As a highway superintendent you need to know how to operate all your vehicles in case of an emergency situation. He doesn’t even have a CDL license.

Wayne: His knowledge is limited to vehicle maintenance and the transportation of people. At the Clarkstown Highway Department, different emergency responses must be taken for every type of emergency. Examples would include: A tree falls across the road, taking overhead wires down with it; ice storms, snow storms, hurricanes, blizzards, black ice, flooding, collapsed road.

Malone's Response: Those are all emergencies that I would have no problem with. 

Wayne: Dennis Malone is running an unsafe shop by failing to have a Hazardous Communication Plan and a Spill Response Plan. Should an employee ingest or have contact with a hazardous product in the Mini Trans mechanic’s shop, he has no set of plans that would explain what actions are required to protect the employee. Should there be a spill of a chemical typically used in the shop, not being trained nor having the proper equipment and materials for the spill cleanup, as well as a contact phone number to call for that chemical, could result in injury to the employee, a costly cleanup and damage to the environment. Both of these plans are required by OSHA and PESH.

Malone's Response: The Mini Trans is compliant with everything. I have MSDS sheet for every chemical that is used. – material safety data sheet.

The mini trans is the safest, best run and most economical garage in the town. That’s why he asked me to evaluate his failing garage in 2009

Vehicles

Malone: Mini-Trans has bought the following number of vehicles:

  • 2001 – one vehicle
  • 2003 – four vehicles
  • 2006 – three vehicles
  • 2007 – one vehicle
  • 2010 – three vehicles from the federal government that I haven’t even used yet.

Highway Department has bought the following number of vehicles in just the last few years:

  • 2007 – six vehicle
  • 2008 – seven vehicles
  • 2009 – five vehicles
  • 2010 – five vehicles

Wayne’s Response: There really can be no comparison between each department purchase needs because “Mini” Trans merely picks people up and drops them off, whereas Highway plows snow, salts roads, picks up brush, does tree work, steam maintenance, repairs roads and sidewalks, drainage work, etc., etc. 

Additionally, all equipment purchases must be justified to the Town Board and they run a tight ship.  Furthermore, there needs to be a town board resolution to actually fund and purchase the equipment.  I’m sure if you ask the Town Board members they will express the need for this equipment was clearly justified. 

Malone: “He has 150 vehicles and some of them only go up to 100,000 miles before it gets replaced. I have 11 vehicles. I’m getting good use out of my vehicles. I get 300,000 miles out of them instead of three years and 150,000 miles, which is the federal government’s recommendation. With the rigorous maintenance schedule that we do, we were able to take them to six years and 300,000 miles”

Wayne’s Response:  This is unfortunately a question which clearly shows Dennis Malone’s limitations in his abilities to run a highway department. Snowplow trucks should only last 7-10 years due to heavy-duty use; whereas at Clarkstown Highway we get 15 years. Upstate New York snow plow trucks only last three years due to the amount of work they do. Clarkstown Highway trucks plow snow, haul asphalt, stone, dirt, leaves and brush over rough terrain and steep hills; not like Mini Trans buses, which picks people up and drops them off on primarily flat road and not during hazardous driving conditions. 

Spending

Ballard: How much does it cost the Town to run Mini Trans versus the revenue received from picking up passengers?

Malone’s Response: The Mini Trans budget is $1 million, but we’re subsidized by the federal government with $500,000 (so) it costs the town $500,000. We transport 160,000 people a year and service all the senior citizens.

Malone: “The Highway budget has gone up 15 percent every year for the past eight years”.

Wayne’s Response: The budget has not gone up 15 percent every year.

Editor’s Note: Clarkstown’s budget for all departments can be found here

Ballard: Paving—$500,000 to 1 million annually is our paving budget. How can Dennis Malone define the corrective action needed in insure the longevity of the road and drainage without know how to build a proper road?

Malone's Response: I would rely on my deputies for those answers. All road work and drainage are done by H2M, that’s a engineering company that the town uses. The highway department has very little involvement. Outside engineers are paid to do that. 

Malone:  Highway Department’s Auto Maintenance amended budget in 2003 was $82,240.  Five years later, the Auto Maintenance budge increased to $291,704 in 2008.  That number has increased since then and the 2011 adopted Auto Maintenance budget is $355,000.

Wayne’s Response: CHD’s Auto Maintenance budget … Malone picked years in the budget with the greatest difference but what (Malone) doesn’t show is the fluctuation of this line over a 10 year period, nor did he provide you with all of the years consecutively to reflect that fluctuation.

The fluctuation is due to the severity of the winter. If the winter is a busy, like this past winter, the value of this line will increase; if it is a quiet winter it will be lower. When trucks are plowing a lot of snow it puts a lot of stress on all the parts of the truck resulting in many repair and replacement of parts. Furthermore, if Dennis Malone had knowledge of the workings of a Highway Department he would never have asked this question.

Malone: “Wayne spent $98,000 from January to now to send out vehicles to be repaired”

Ballard’s Response: The $98,000 refers to both labor and parts for vehicles that either could not be serviced by the mechanics due to work load or a specialty task that is beyond the capabilities of our mechanics. What is important to understand about the $98,000 is that a majority of the cost is for parts, which would have been expended whether the work was done in-house or outsourced. For example of the $98,000 in total expense only $38,000 is for labor and the $60,000 is for parts.

Also worth noting is that of the $98,000, $77,000 was for one piece of equipment a Jet Vac used to clean out catch basins and drainage pipes. In the Town of Clarkstown there are 11,000 catch basins and hundreds of miles of pipe resulting in heavy usage of this piece of equipment. Furthermore the part of this piece of equipment that needed to be replaced reached its useful life 13 years. When the Jet Vac is in use, the contents of the catch basin and associated piping is vacuumed up in to the Debris Body Assembly which contains rocks, glass, sand and sometimes salt all of which wear away at the steel wall of the Debris Body. To purchase a new Jet Vac is $260,000 where as this repair was $77,000 so it was worth the investment. Moreover, I was able to purchase the Jet Vac and charge a portion of that expense to FEMA after Hurricane Floyd, which was a savings to the Town.

This type of work is typically out-sourced by any highway department and in compliance with the consultant’s report which says “major body and body attachments-fabricating and refurbishing are one of 11 items that should be outsourced”.  Of the remaining monies out-sourced $21,000, most of which was for parts being that Ruscon, the vendor is a truck parts supplier.

Malone:  “In 2004, he spent $80,000 for parts. I’ve got every piece of equipment for free from the county”

Wayne’s Response: I am saving $1 million on salaries every year since 2002 and have received $4 million in grants.

Wayne:

Malone's Response:

Malone: Municipal Transportation, aka Mini-Trans, has been able to cut costs using several methods in the Auto Maintenance budget.  The 2003 amended budget for Auto Maintenance was $66,950 and that number decreased to $45,643 in 2008.  That number is still going to decrease more down to $35,000 for the 2011 adopted budget.

Wayne’s Response: That’s great in what Dennis Malone was able to accomplish and why he should continue to run the Mini Trans that consist of 26 employees of which only a few are full time with two of them being mechanics taking care of 11 light duty buses (all of which are the same type of vehicle) for the sole purpose of picking up and dropping off riders, not heavy-duty plowing or the stress on equipment caused when excavating or hauling tons of

Other Questions & Closing Remarks:

Wayne: Dennis Malone was a Republican, turned Conservative and recently changed his registration to be a Democrat.

Malone's Response: I was a Republican when I was a young boy and I really didn’t know I was. I wasn’t really involved in politics and I must have checked off the wrong box when I registered. I became a Conservative because I have Conservative views. I’m also very Democratic in the treatment of people and in my nature. The combination of the views make for a perfect mix.

Malone's Closing Remarks: 

I think that all politicians should hve been at one time in business of some kind. You have to understand what it is to do business and make profits. You have to run it like it’s your own business.

In 2009, when some of my vehicles crossed the 300,000 mile mark, I went to TRIPS. I took their buses that they were retiring at 150,000 miles and asked if they could give their buses to me. TRIPS sends their vehicles out for repairs, they don’t fix their own buses so when they gave them to Clarkstown, I refurbished them.

I saved $60,000 by using 35,000 diesel gallons of fuel a year when I switched to passenger cars in 2003. I also went from spending $250,000 to $125,000 in insurance that year too. I downsized the size of the buses. Clarkstown was using school buses and transit buses from 1975-2003. In 2003, I started using passenger Ford cutaways, which saved the Mini-Trans $143,000. 

The Town of Clarkstown Highway Department, under the leadership of Wayne Ballard, auto maintenance amended budget in 2003 was $82,240.  Just 5 years later, in 2008, the budget has ballooned to $291,704.  That’s a 355% increase.  

As if that wasn’t enough, in 2011, the adopted auto maintenance budget is $355,000, which is a 122% increase from 2008.

On the other hand, Municipal Transportation, also known as Mini-Trans, has been able to cut costs using several methods in the auto maintenance budget.  The 2003 adopted budget for auto maintenance was $66,950.  I became the Transportation Operations Supervisor in 2003 and that number decreased by 32% down to $45,643 in 2008. 

That number is still going to decrease more, by 23%, down to $35,000 for the 2011 adopted budget.

In 2010, at the cost to the taxpayers of the Town of Clarkstown of $9,500, another audit of the Highway Department mechanical facility was completed.  The results of this report were requested to be given verbally to Wayne Ballard and the Town Council.  

The teamwork of the employees of the Mini-Trans Department, under my leadership, has gone without a chargeable accident since 2006.  This decreased the insurance from $250,000 to $125,000 per year, saving the town an additional $625,000 in 5 years.

Although the Mini-Trans has only 11 vehicles in service, they travel 360,000 miles in a calendar year.  

Ballard's Closing Remarks:

It is evident that Dennis Malone’s knowledge purely relates to mechanical issues, which is a very small segment of the job of Highway Superintendent.  What experience and education does Dennis Malone have that could demonstrate he can do any of the other tasks a highway superintendent does?  What level of education did Dennis Malone achieve?

1) Geometry related to road design.

2) Field inspections and material testing related the type and placement of the materials used to build roads, sidewalks and drainage structures.  

3) Design of drainage systems

4) Ways in which to maintain streams; what is a “numbered” stream and what are the limitations?

5) Types of snow and ice control measures that need to be taken before a storm to protect the public, considering the different weather conditions and road temperatures.

6) Response to hurricanes, during and after the storm, flooding, snow, wind and ice storms.

7) Being an engineer greatly helps me in being a highway superintendent in the reading of plans for subdivisions, hydrology studies, traffic engineer’s reports, NYSDOT specifications and standards for signs, lights, signals, guiderail, and road construction details. Not to mention the 100’s of plans needed to be looked over for the TZ 287 Corridor Project and understanding how it’s going to affect our lives by impacting our existing network of roads. How would Dennis Malone handle this with only the knowledge of being a mechanic, running the Mini Trans and a one-time bar owner?

8) Wayne Ballard recommended that the Town go to an outside consultant to evaluate the consolidation of the Mini Trans, Police Garage, and Highway Mechanics’ Shop and the cost saving that may be realized. When the consultant made the presentation it stated that within the existing shops there was no qualified person(s) to over see the three garages included Dennis Malone. The Town Board forward a job description to create a Highway Maintenance Supervisor III title to oversee all town mechanics and Dennis Malone wouldn’t qualify. Does that not reflect Dennis Malone’s abilities to oversee the one thing he claims to know?

9) The Town Board passed a resolution for the qualifications of an appointed highway superintendent, all of which Dennis Malone doesn’t qualify (see attached resume of Dennis Malone). Does that not reflect Dennis Malone’s inability to be in the future plans for the Town of Clarkstown?

10)   In 1998 I found that numerous sub-standard roads were falling apart and failing within a few years of dedication to the Town because the prior Highway Superintendent didn’t know how and what to watch for during the road construction and conducted no required field tests to determine the quality of the material being used and the method the road was being constructed. This directly resulted in large amounts of our tax dollars to subsidize the work of developers who should have built the roads right in the first place.  So the Town was using money to correct these poorly-built roads rather than resurface existing roads that had reached their useful life. Going forward, wouldn’t a person without an engineering background or equivalent experience bring us back to those prior conditions?

11)   Does Dennis Malone have the needed administrative skills to apply state and federal funding; and if successful be able to provide the needed documentation throughout the project to satisfy payment requirements from those state and federal agencies?

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