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A Cochecton winter

By Linda Drollinger
January 15, 2014

LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — At its first regular monthly meeting of 2014 on January 8, the Cochecton Town Board unanimously adopted two resolutions. The first authorized annual rent payment to Dog Control Officer Rosemary Barile for the use of her property as a kennel. The second indemnified all town board members, employees, clerks, and officers who handle public funds in the discharge of their official duties. And then the board turned its attention to the winter of discontent.

Usually a man of few words, Highway Superintendent Kevin Esselman dominated the meeting with his report to the board and various related requests. His report: winter 2013-14 has been tough on the town’s roads and even tougher on the men and equipment that maintain them. Highway department employees worked around the clock for nine of the past 10 days. And there was at least one major equipment failure resulting in injury to an employee. The department’s salt supply has already been replenished once, an occurrence rare in recent memory.

Esselman noted that the 24-hour shifts made nighttime fueling of trucks necessary. That, in turn, prompted two requests: one for overhead lighting to illuminate fuel pumps, and another for purchase and installation of a portable generator as backup power for lighting and running of fuel pumps.

The grueling hours worked by highway department employees in recent days would strain even the healthiest among us. So it came as a surprise to the board when Esselman revealed that annual physical examinations for highway department employees are not required under New York State Department of Transportation law. Nevertheless, Esselman strongly recommended them to his staff; asked if they would voluntarily undergo them, all employees agreed to do so. When Town Attorney Karen Mannino expressed concern about physical exam findings, the board decided to broach the topic to the collective bargaining unit that represents highway department employees.