Friday, May 04, 2007

Playing with fire

You don’t hold office for three decades in a city like Saratoga Springs without accumulating a few skeletons in your closet. Nor do you commence more than a dozen successful campaigns without ruffling a few feathers, something Public Works Commissioner Thomas McTygue has been prone to do over his tenure in politics.

But recently, there seems to be a filling bandwagon to shake out any dirt and march out him out of office, starting with a pair of superfluous grainy videos produced by a “professional” film maker and ending with the ongoing state investigation into spilled hydraulic fuel at the DPW garage. As aforementioned, the drama and politics that is now playing out in the public spotlight is nothing more than a resultant whirlpool from a hostile takeover attempt in the city’s Democratic Party; what is going on behind the scenes is much more far reaching than a senior citizen shooting shoddy films and a few soil samples being analyzed in Albany.

Speaking of which, The Times Union began outlining the gist of the DPW investigation this week, indicating the state Department of Environmental Conservation will check samples taken at the city’s compost heap. The assumption would be that DPW workers made a furtive attempt to clean up the mess in vain attempt to defuse public backlash from costly cleanup. And this may very well be the case too.

But the city has experienced far worse instances of “spilled oil” in recent years, one of which occurred less than a mile away from the DPW garage at Espey Manufacturing. The DEC was called to the industrial manufacturer in February 2005, after more than 65 gallons of “transformer oil” was dumped at the plant. The now-concluded report is concise and indicates an “impervious surface” was the only thing affected by the spill.

However, one worker who witnessed the spill paints a different picture of the event and resulting cleanup. Apparently, a lift operator was attempting to haul old machinery out of the plant, when he fired over a bump in the pavement too quick and overturned the unit. The result was the leaking of noxious oil in copious amounts, the worker indicated. The lift operator refused a drug test and was subsequently fired from Espey.

Cleanup was largely done by using woodchips to soak up the oil, but the worker didn’t seem to think they ever left the site. Though unsure of exactly what type of oil was leaked, the worker believed it was significantly more toxic than the hydraulic oil dumped by the DPW. The case remained open for three months, according to the information on DEC's spill response database.

See, there are a lot of spills in the city that don’t get a lot of press, simply because they don’t have the appeal of a political scandal. Take the 200 gallons of diesel fuel dumped by Quad Graphics in 2004 after a similar type “equipment failure.” The site off Duplainville Road is located just a short distance away from Geyser Creek, which runs through the state park and ultimately empties into the Kaydeross. DEC officials kept the case open for nearly three months.

The interesting part about both of these spills is that they were done in areas of the town generally off limits to the public and out of sight. Espey, for instance, is largely enshrouded by mystery due to the secretive nature of their work –building weapons guidance systems for the Israelis. This means they can conduct the cleanup in any manner they choose. As long as they’ve got a clean soil sample beneath the spill and paperwork that says they properly disposed of the material, the cash-strapped officers of the DEC aren’t likely to start waving around search orders.

Yet there seems to be a pounding cry from a certain constituency for the investigation at the DPW. This comes at the same time as a so-called grass-roots cry for “more accountability” in the DPW sprouts up online. However, there may not be any roots growing under this Astroturf being laid out on YouTube. All in all, the comments and videos seem far too contrived to be representative of a public that has vastly supported the city’s longest sitting public official.

Now suddenly, former City Supervisor Anthony “Skip” Scirocco sprouts up from this turf as the Republican heavyweight contender for DPW comish. And despite their clear disdain for the Brothers’ McTygue, Kamp Keehn has yet to produce a peep about who they think would better serve the city Dems by running public works. Perhaps they’re not going to either.

It’s entirely likely that Kamp Keehn is willingly to sacrifice the office to the former dog catcher, an old-school GOP candidate who would no doubt garner support from both the conservatives and the police union. Her campaign offered support for Kim, a so-called independent, who was once a loyal member of the city’s Republican committee, so it’s easily conceivable that she’d support Scirocco, rather than have McTygue pull off another election.

But Keehn and her supporters are playing with fire, especially considering the rhetoric they tossed out at the previous Republican-dominated administration. The infighting among the Dems will all but ensure a strong GOP showing in November. And given the utter lack of progress in City Hall this past year, there’s a good chance this contingent will seize power sooner than later. At this point, they could probably run the estate of Ellsworth Jones as a candidate for mayor and still accrue a fair number of votes.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another current 'spill' problem in Saratoga Springs
"SALS(Southern Adirondack Library System - Whitney Place) Board Meeting Minutes, September 19, 2006
C. Other: The Department of Environmental Conservation (EnCon) approached us about having a
well monitoring probe on our property to monitor pollution from the dry cleaner on Lincoln
Avenue." Hmmm, guess everything does run downhill.

4:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's funny how if you work for the metroland your sources matter but blog on the internet and facts become irrelevent. "some worker over there", what about the countless workers who have come out about the ridiculous conditions at DPW. just a lot of axes to grind i guess.
Are we really to believe that because a private company spilled oil, of which you use an anonymous source to refute their cleanup efforts, which in either case was more than the DPW did to clean up their mess, that it is then ok for DPW to do the same."no big deal espey does it all the time" i don't think so. T mac is in trouble because of his own actions. the voters are fed up, his attempt to hijack the democratic party has failed. and he finally has someone with integrity running against him who really only cares about doing whats right for the city much like the mayor. thats what this city wants.

4:19 PM  

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