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Jason Kontzamanys

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Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro. Photo by Phil Corso

By Victoria Espinoza

A stark difference in opinion over the town’s management of funding is a key component of the race for Brookhaven Highway superintendent.

Incumbent Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro. Photo by Phil Corso
Incumbent Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro. Photo by Phil Corso

The incumbent, Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R), squared off against Democratic challenger, Jason Kontzamanys, at the Times Beacon Record headquarters, where they discussed finances in the highway department, use of subcontractors and why they deserve the job.

Kontzamanys has worked in the department of parks and recreation in Brookhaven for the past decade. He said it was that experience that helps shape his workers-first mentality, which he hoped to bring into office: “As I worked my way up, I realized the most brilliant ideas come from the workers doing the work day in and day out.”

Kontzamanys said he wants to consolidate the department as much as he can in order to save money and streamline government. One way to do that, he proposed, would be placing the Holtsville Ecology Site within the jurisdiction of the town’s parks department.

He also said he thinks he can bring changes to a “financially mismanaged” department, especially by cracking down on the usage of subcontractors.

“I do not want to rely on subcontractors,” he said. “I want to embolden the unionized work force and expand it as much as I can.”

He said subcontractors should not handle routine projects like lawn cutting, drainage and tree removal. Instead, he said he wants to do as much work as he can in-house within a 40-hour week.

Jason Kontzamanys. Photo by Phil Corso
Jason Kontzamanys. Photo by Phil Corso

“To deal with them on a continual basis, as far as I’m concerned is a violation of public trust when it comes to tax payers money,” the challenger said.

In terms of hiring fewer subcontractors, Losquadro said he believes there is no way around it, as Brookhaven’s scope is so large that the town needs more hands to handle the amount of work it accrues.

“With 3,350 lane miles of road to maintain and 200 employees, there is no way we could get all the work done without supplementing and augmenting some of that work to subcontractors,” Losquadro said.

With another term, Losquadro said he wants to continue to reform and update the department. He said he has already modernized the department a great deal and improved communication.

“There were no radio communications that were reliable [when I came into office],” Losquadro said. “I designed and installed a new radio communication system which is the same technology that the police and fire service use.”

Losquadro said the new system is reliable and gives the department coverage in parts of Long Island with serious topographical challenges.

He also mentioned major storms over the past year in which the department was able to dispatch and respond to public safety concerns in real time.

Another improvement Losquadro said he has brought to the department is with the work order system. He referred to the old system as “archaic,” in which a routine work order took weeks of mailing to different departments.

The town already uses this system for severe weather events like snowstorms, but Losquadro said he was still in the process of rolling out a fully electronic work order system.

Kontzamanys said many of the updates that Losquadro has brought to the department have already been in effect at the parks department for years and he would like to see more updates on his watch.

“I would try to embrace solar projects through federal grants, including solar bike paths and solar sidewalks,” Kontzamanys said. He also said he would then sell the energy back to utility company PSEG Long Island for a profit.

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.