SOMERS, N.Y. - Nick DeVito has a couple of weeks to go before he becomes Somers’ next highway superintendent.
But he wants to hit the proverbial road running.
The current deputy superintendent told the Town Board on Thursday, Dec. 5, that he was hoping to slowly rebuild the town’s fleet of trucks over the next 10 to 15 years.
But when several of the aging vehicles suffered breakdowns during last week’s snowstorm, DeVito felt it was time to move things forward.
He proposed that the town purchase a new truck for $210,000, and the board agreed.
It will not have an impact on the town’s proposed 2020 $14.6 million spending plan because the monies will come from the highway department’s and the general fund’s reserves.
The town just received the results of an audit of its 2018 budget that found it was in good financial shape and had healthy fund balances.
After highway crews doing paving work started uncovering deteriorating storm drains, the town added a pair of road maintenance positions to the proposed budget. It also inserted a slight pay bump for the new deputy highway superintendent, whoever that may be. The superintendent’s salary will stay the same.
The proposed 1.44 percent tax levy increase is well under the state cap, said the town’s finance director, Robert Kehoe. The town expects to adopt the budget tonight (Thursday, Dec. 12).
DeVito praised his soon-to-be predecessor, Thomas Chiaverini, for doing a “great job” of keeping the town’s surplus Army trucks going for as long as he has.
“Over the years, these Army surplus vehicles have been the backbone of the Highway Department, and, frankly, the backbone of the Highway Department budget,” said Supervisor Rick Morrissey.
But the trucks are so old now that it’s no longer worth repairing them, DeVito said.
Parts are getting harder and harder to find and the handful of auction sites selling these secondhand vehicles have dried up.
“Looking to the future, we’d like to, slowly but surely, add some new vehicles in order to keep the town safe,” DeVito said.
DeVito added that it’s necessary to start the process now, even though the truck isn’t likely to arrive until the winter of 2021.
“These things don’t turn around in six months; they don’t turn around in a year. We’re looking at 14 months from the day I order it,” he said.
Meanwhile, highway employees will keep the current fleet rolling and the roads safe.
“We’re going to have to hustle to make sure things work, and we will. But it just seems like a good idea to try to get in front of this as opposed to waiting,” DeVito said.
The board, supportive of the requested purchase, praised DeVito for his enthusiastic focus on the future and Chiaverini, the outgoing highway chief, for his able stewardship of the town roads.
“This town is known for its care of its roads, especially in the winter. You’ve got some big shoes to fill,” Morrissey said.
Meanwhile, the town also recognized Arnold “Arnie” Guyot, who recently retired after 27 years with the Highway Department.
According to a proclamation read at Thursday’s meeting, the town is “fortunate to employ wonderful and hardworking individuals” like the lifelong Somers resident.
Guyot started as a motor equipment operator in 1992 and was promoted to heavy equipment operator. In 2013, he became the town’s senior auto mechanic.
Keeping local roads safe is only one way Guyot contributes to the community, Morrissey said.
He has also been a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Conservation Board.
A trustee of the Somers Historical Society, Guyot helped guide Somers High School student Max Caron, who restored a 1917
Ford Model T for his Eagle Scout project. Also helping the Troop 228 Scout with the yearlong project, which was completed in 2018, was master mechanic Tom Leonard.
The antique automobile had been bequeathed in 1967 to the Somers Historical Society by Caroline Wright Reis, after whom the town park is named. It now appears in town parades and at community events.
Morrissey declared Friday, Dec. 6, as “Arnold Guyot Day.”