The Town of Spencer finally has a new highway superintendent. Mike Austin of Owl Creek Road in Spencer was appointed by the town board at their Jan. 12 regular board meeting. Austin recently retired from his job with the city of Ithaca after a 33-year career there. Most of those years he spent in the sign shop working on signs or striping on city roads. He comes with supervisory experience in his previous roles. He recognizes that there will be a “learning curve” in this new position and said he was grateful that Acting Superintendent Chris Garland will be staying on as the Deputy Highway Superintendent to help him learn the new job. Austin will complete the final year of the former superintendent, Dick Smith’s, term - which is this calendar year. If Austin or anyone else wants to be highway superintendent in the future, they will have to run in the general election in November 2021.?
Austin will jump immediately into equipment problems on his first day. The town recently purchased two new sanders but the town crew learned quickly during the recent snow and icy weather that the sanders do not work well. One has had to have a motor upgrade already. The other has trouble with the vibrator that causes the sand and salt to feed into the sander. Apparently, these sanders do not work well when the sand/salt mixture is wet and heavy from being stored outside, which is where the pile is located. One of the sanders is working somewhat but the other is not able to sand at all.?
The board recognized that they will have to act to correct this situation. The sanders are under warranty but the company the town bought the sanders from will not refund the full price paid for them. After much discussion about how to minimize their financial loss in getting sanders that work, the board agreed that they needed to research options and prices before making any decisions. The sanders were tabled until the February meeting. Town supervisor Al Fulkerson noted that the town also needs a new grader and the best truck in the garage is 10 years old - “conversations for down the road,” he added.?
On the topic of roads, Fulkerson has been wanting to do a qualified abandonment of the upper portion of Gay Hollow, a seasonal road, for some time, but the county has not yet acted on Spencer’s petition to do it. There is one house at the top with no one in permanent residence. The road is very narrow and goes through solid shale rock, similar to Burheight glen. In years past, when asked to sand the seasonal part of the road, only a pickup can get through in the winter. At the bottom of the road where there are six to nine properties on a flat section is a much easier portion to upgrade and maintain, with future development in mind.?
Fulkerson asked the board members if they wanted to have to town email addresses on the new proposed website. This was the last hurdle to get over to enable Sander van Dijk to build the town a new, user-friendly website. None of the board members ever use the ones they have now, so were happy to forego them. With that detail finalized, Fulkerson directed the town clerk to work with van Dijk to complete building the new site. Hopefully the new site will go live by February.?
Code Enforcement Officer Steve Cortright provided his year-end report with some encouraging statistics. In 2020 He issued 27 building permits, renewed three, issued six Certificates of Occupancy, 12 Certificates of Compliance, made 63 construction inspections, visited two fire incidents, and completed 44 hours of training, (24 are mandatory to maintain his certification). Seventy-nine people visited the office. Cortright estimates that building work closed out within the town in 2020 is worth $963,950, which pleased Fulkerson as it adds to the tax base of Spencer.
The next meeting of the town board will be on Feb. 9 at 6 p.m.