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Highway

Robert Murphy. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Robert Murphy (R) is the man with experience.

As interim highway superintendent for Smithtown, re-electing a candidate who has already gotten his feet wet — learning how the department operates and how best to allocate the budget — is in Smithtown’s best interest.

He’s proven to be the guy for the job, and can bring trust and confidence back following the communities concerns after former Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen (R) resigned.

Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) noted receiving more complimentary calls at the beginning of this year — with the handling of two snowstorms — than any other year.

Murphy is a lifelong resident of Smithtown, minus a 12-year stay in Arizona, so he’s familiar with the area and has almost 25 years of experience in the engineering field. Prior to being named the deputy highway superintendent in 2012, he spent two years as a capital projects manager for Suffolk County.

He believes in supporting an uptick in worker morale, bringing in jobs and projects to workers that will leave them with a sense of pride, and we applaud his efforts.

While his challenger, Democrat Justin Smiloff, is young and enthusiastic, he does not have the same set of skills. He has his own advantages, including his age, with ideas to modernize and upgrade the department, but we think Murphy is the right choice.

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Glenn Jorgensen poses with a tree stump at the Montclair Avenue highway yard. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Smithtown’s former Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen was sentenced to 560 hours of community service and three years’ probation in state Supreme Court on Friday after pleading guilty to charges accusing him of falsifying public documents, records showed.

Back in October, Jorgensen, 64, pleaded guilty to the felony charge of offering a false instrument for filing and the misdemeanor charge of official misconduct relating back to a construction project he headed in November 2014, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office said. He appeared in front of Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen in Riverhead on Friday, where he avoided four months of jail time and received a plea deal that included his community service sentencing as well as a surcharge of $375 to be paid over the next 90 days.

Anthony La Pinta, Jorgensen’s Hauppauge-based criminal defense attorney, could not be reached from comment.

According to the criminal complaint against Jorgensen, the former highway superintendent instructed an employee of Smithtown to alter road construction reports to hide his approval of Medford contractor Suffolk Asphalt Corp. paving as many as eight Smithtown streets in below-freezing temperatures throughout November 2014.

“This disposition compels the defendant to resign from his elected position and his admission of guilt before the court confirms the facts uncovered during the investigation,” Robert Clifford, spokesman for the DA’s office, said in a statement earlier this year. “As the superintendent of highways, Mr. Jorgensen knowingly had false information about the paving of town roads filed as an official town record, and he knowingly directed that inaccurate information be filed to make it appear as though the roadwork met state mandatory specifications.”

Jorgensen resigned from his position Oct. 16.

“It is a sad occurrence and I will have no comment other than I have sympathy for Mr. Jorgensen and his family,” Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) said in an October statement.

In April, Jorgensen was charged with tampering with public records, falsifying business records, filing false records, official misconduct and grand larceny, Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said. Initially, Jorgensen pleaded not guilty to the charges.

At the time, Jorgensen, of St. James, was accused of altering road construction reports and stealing a public work order for an improper repaving. He tried to conceal his approval of paving at least eight Smithtown streets in freezing temperatures last November and then directed a highway foreman to alter the record of the weather conditions done during the repaving work.

Jorgensen had also been accused of sexual harassment involving his former secretary. The town was issued a notice of claim alleging he sexually harassed her in December. The claim also alleged he had taken her out to job sites, out to eat and eventually fired her after finding out she was dating an employee of the highway department.

District attorney detectives found work orders for the improper repaving jobs hidden under Jorgensen’s bed at his Hope Place residence in St. James.

Jorgensen worked for the Smithtown Highway Department for 37 years, and won election for highway superintendent in 2009 and 2013.

Mountains of mulch dwarf Councilman Dan Panico, Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro and Supervisor Ed Romaine at the Brookhaven Town highway yard in Setauket. Photo from Brookhaven Town

The severe thunderstorm that slapped around the North Shore earlier this month had one benefit: Lots of debris leads to lots of mulch.

Brookhaven Town officials announced recently that the town now has a large supply of mulch to give away to residents, and both mulch and compost will be distributed for free, as supplies last. Residents must bring their own containers to the distribution locations throughout the town and must load the materials into their vehicles themselves.

Pickup locations, which opened for distribution on Aug. 24, include:

Percy Raynor park, at Route 347 and Belle Mead Road in Centereach, Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the weekend.

Rose Caracappa Senior Center on Route 25A in Mount Sinai, Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the weekend.

Brookhaven Town Hall’s south parking lot, off 1 Independence Hill in Farmingville, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Robert Reid park, at Defense Hill Road and Route 25A in Shoreham, Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the weekend.

Holtsville Ecology Center, on Buckley Road in Holtsville, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information and pickup locations, call 631-451-TOWN.

Jason Kontzamanys takes on Dan Losquadro on Nov. 3

Road paving is just one of the issues highway superintendent candidates will debate. File photo by Erika Karp

Jason Kontzamanys has been working in the Town of Brookhaven parks department for a decade, but the Democrat said he is looking for a new challenge, which prompted his decision to face off against Republican incumbent Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro in November.

Jason Kontzamanys is running on the democratic ticket against incumbent Republican Dan Losquadro. Photo from the candidate
Jason Kontzamanys is running on the democratic ticket against incumbent Republican Dan Losquadro. Photo from the candidate

In a recent interview, Kontzamanys, 45, of Port Jefferson Station, spoke about his plans for his campaign and what he would do if elected to the position. He said his years of experience working as a maintenance mechanic in the parks department and with blue-collar workers makes him the man for the job.

This is Kontzamanys’ first time running for office and the Comsewogue High School alumnus recently went back to school to earn his master’s degree in social studies education from Dowling College. He plans to obtain his doctorate in education administration and become a school administrator.

“I knew I could make a difference,” he said about accepting the nomination.

Kontzamanys said he believed the biggest issue plaguing the department is the overuse of subcontracting.

“The taxpayers should be upset as well,” he said. “The taxpayer is paying for a unionized workforce and they’re not being worked to their full potential.”

Kontzamanys began working for Brookhaven at the landfill and currently works out of the parks department’s base in Holtsville, where he helps with “all aspects of construction and maintenance,” he said. This has given him the opportunity to be versatile and get to know the whole town, he said.

He also has his Class A Commercial License to operate heavy equipment.

Bringing the subcontracted work in house is one of the first steps Kontzamanys would take to help boost the department’s morale, which he alleged is almost non-existent. He said keeping an open-door policy would also help boost spirits.

“You have to keep an open mind, because everybody has the right to be heard, whether it’s a taxpayer or an in-house union member,” he said.

Kontzamanys also said he has a vision to modernize the department and reduce the department’s debt service.

Jason Kontzamanys is running on the democratic ticket against incumbent Republican Dan Losquadro, above. File photo by Erika Karp
Jason Kontzamanys is running on the democratic ticket against incumbent Republican Dan Losquadro, above. File photo by Erika Karp

Losquadro, who was elected as superintendent in 2013, said in a phone interview that he disagreed with Kontzamanys’ notion that subcontracting was bad for the department and the workers aren’t being used. Losquadro said there was a tremendous backlog of work that needed to be done when he took office.

“We needed to go out and contract for that work to keep up with the volume,” he said.

He added that department crews are still responsible for responding to day-to-day complaints and completing routine work. He said the response time for services performed has greatly improved and the fixed-cost contracts gave the department the ability to attend to a high volume of work.

“I think it has been a great boon for the taxpayer,” Losquadro said.

Losquadro also responded to Kontzamanys’ claim that morale was down in the department, stating it is “exactly the opposite,” as he as tried to maintain a direct and open line to his employees.

Making the department more environmentally friendly is also crucial to Kontzamanys, he said, and he spoke about going after federal grants for solar sidewalks and solar panels on highway department land.

Looking at the big picture, Kontzamanys wants to explore additional shared services between municipalities in order to create a synergy between them. For example, collectively bidding on asphalt could help drive down the price.

“I don’t want to just manage, I want to completely transform,” he said.

Election Day is Nov. 3.

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Stony Brook’s B-Section is brand new. Photo from Dan Losquadro

Stony Brook has a bunch of brand new boulevards, thanks to Brookhaven bureaucrats, and residents are abuzz.

The Brookhaven Town Highway Department finished a long-anticipated road improvement project in Stony Brook last week in the area known as the B-Section, repaving 19 roads and making the neighborhood safer. Residents living in the community celebrated the milestone after more than two decades of wear and tear.

“It is a pleasure driving through the community now,” said Dr. Jay Orlikoff, who lives in the neighborhood. “The last time these roads were repaved was about 25 years ago and it was tough to get in and out of the community. This time it was very well done and the courtesy of the workers in how they directed traffic was extremely helpful.”

Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro said the 19 Stony Brook roads have been near the top of his department’s list for more than a year, but budget constraints have limited his repaving initiatives. But as of the end of last week, the 19 roads — including Balfour Lane, Ballad Lane, Ballad Place, Barker Court, Barker Drive, Barnwell Lane, Beaverdale Lane, Bendix Lane, Bently Lane, Birdseye Circle, Blackwell Court, Blackwell Lane, Blueberry Lane, Bonnie Lane, Botany Lane, Bucknell Lane, Bunting Lane, Burgess Lane and Buxmont Lane — have new surfaces and are safer routes.

“They were in terrible condition. These were roads that, quite frankly, I wish I could have gotten to last year,” he said. “Unfortunately, as you can imagine, everything is budget-driven. There’s a finite amount of money.”

The highway superintendent said he has about 3,350 miles of road to maintain throughout Brookhaven on an annual basis, and more than $100 million worth of roadwork on his to-do list at any given time. But there is only roughly $17 million in funds available to complete the work.

“I’m trying to work my way through these roads, and one of the things I’ve tried to do with people is create a reasonable expectation,” he said. “There are three-to-five-year plans of how we need to get where we need to be, and I’m working toward that. A project like this, that can cost between three-quarters of a million dollars and $1 million, is just an extensive project.”

For the better part of a week, Brookhaven road crews took to the B-Section to rebuild concrete, curbs, drainage and paving components on the 19 roads. Residents waited patiently over several days of milling work and the end result, the superintendent said, was a safer Stony Brook.

“It is very gratifying to hear the positive feedback we have been receiving from residents in this community,” Losquadro said. “This is one more project I can check off our to-do list. The Highway Department will keep on pace to complete many more roads throughout this paving season.”

Looking ahead, Losquadro said he had another big project coming up, budget permitting, in the same vicinity near both Spyglass Lane and Buccaneer Lane, where he said roads are in terrible condition.

“We need to get in there and get that done,” he said. “With the budgetary constraints, I have to be honest with you, I can spend my entire allotment without a problem. But the residents throughout this town deserve attention. We try to do worst first.”

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Glenn Jorgensen poses with a tree stump at the Montclair Avenue highway yard. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

In a short and not very sweet memo, Smithtown’s supervisor called out the superintendent of highways.

Pat Vecchio (R) said he felt Glenn Jorgensen should resign from his post amid a slew of accusations surrounding his performance on the job, including an alleged sexual harassment scandal and various felony charges against Jorgensen regarding road paving projects late last year. The letter came after the supervisor learned Jorgensen, 63, had allegedly taken his personal secretary out to a job site.

Vecchio’s memo included an attachment from the Suffolk County Civil Service Department, which explicitly outlined the job description of the secretary to the highway superintendent and did not include on-site work.

“It is my understanding that today, May 13, 2015, you had [a] secretary accompany you to a job site,” the memo said. “It seems to me that you are either not comprehending why the position exists, you have a disregard for civil service law or you are mocking the town board and the public.”

Town records showed that Jorgensen, who could not be reached for comment, hired Kaitlin Swinson as his new secretary in late January. Her position had initially been terminated back in February when the town board voted unanimously to rescind the $38,000 allocated for her job, but later reinstated her position in a 3-1 vote in March. She could not be reached for comment.

The highway superintendent has been at the center of controversy for several months now since a notice of claim was filed against the town in December alleging he had sexually harassed his former secretary, Aimee-Lynn Smith, 27. The claim also alleged Jorgensen had taken her out to job sites, out to eat and eventually fired her after finding out she was dating an employee of the highway department.

Jorgensen, of St. James, was also slapped with separate charges accusing him of tampering with public records for a town paving project, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said.

Jorgensen pleaded not guilty to the four felony charges and the misdemeanor in April.

The district attorney alleged that Jorgensen directed a highway foreman to alter road construction reports to conceal that he had approved a contractor, Suffolk Asphalt Corp. of Selden, to pave at least eight Smithtown streets in freezing temperatures in November. The altered records misrepresented the weather conditions during the repaving work, Spota said.

Jorgensen’s misdemeanor grand larceny charge also accused him of stealing a public work order for the improper repaving and taking the official document home. District attorney detectives found the records in Jorgensen’s Hope Place residence, under his bed, Spota said.

“State department of transportation construction standards dictate asphalt must not be applied to a road surface in freezing temperatures and, in fact, the town’s own engineer has said repaving in freezing weather would result in the asphalt falling apart,” Spota said. “The repaving of a residential street doesn’t happen that often and when it does, residents are paying for a job done correctly, not a faulty repaving that will soon need pothole repair work.”

Smithtown Democratic Committee Chairman Ed Maher also called for Jorgensen’s resignation back in April after the charges surfaced, calling the taxpayers funding of his salary an outrage.

The Sagtikos Parkway. Photo from NYSDOT

Members of the public will get to weigh in on the future of the Sagtikos-Sunken Meadow Parkway at two New York State Department of Transportation informational meetings next week.

The state department is seeking input for a Sagtikos State Parkway/Sunken Meadow Parkway Operational Study. The goal of the study is to “examine how the roadway functions, identify causes of traffic congestion and accidents and determine how the corridor will function in the future.”

According to the DOT, an average of 90,000 vehicles per day use the Sagtikos-Sunken Meadow State Parkway.

Residents, businesses, and all interested groups are encouraged to attend and provide input regarding the Sagtikos-Sunken Meadow Parkway Study within the towns of Islip, Babylon, Smithtown and Huntington, the department said in a statement.

The meetings will take place on Tuesday, April 14, and Thursday, April 16, 2015. The April 14 meeting is being held at Deer Park High School, 1 Falcon Place, Deer Park, between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. The April 16 meeting is being held at William T. Rogers Middle School, 97 Old Dock Road, Kings Park, between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.

Study-area maps, traffic and accident data, and other related information will be on hand for review. State engineers and representatives will be available to answer questions and receive comments on this operational study.

“Input and suggestions from the local community are strongly encouraged,” according to a DOT statement.

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