Commissioner of Public Works Anthony Corellis and the Town of East Greenbush

Mary Yamin-Garone

It doesn’t take long to realize that Anthony Corellis is the right man for the job. Obviously comfortable in his own skin, Anthony exudes confidence as he tells of his journey to become the commissioner of public works of the town of East Greenbush.

“I grew up in the town of East Greenbush on a parcel of the family farm located on Columbia Turnpike (Routes 9 and 20), which is a main thoroughfare in the town. The farm, owned by my grandfather, is one of the oldest in East Greenbush. Roughly 18 acres is still used by my cousin for hay fields and to raise cows.”

After graduating from Columbia High School — Anthony was the first one in his family to do so — he was drafted into the Army and sent to Germany.

“I did my basic training in Fort Dix, N.J., and was hurt during airborne training in Fort Benning, Ga., making me a disabled veteran.”

When he came home, Anthony “worked for my father’s sand and gravel business for a short time driving a dump truck. Then I went to work for my brother, Thomas (Thomas Corellis Sand & Gravel). I was an electrician for a short time, then in 1976 I started my own company, A Septic Service. I built my shop and home on a piece of the family farm. I’ve owned my own business for over 40 years and still do. My son, Anthony Corellis III, is running it now.”

So how did he end up in the commissioner’s chair?

“Growing up in East Greenbush I did a lot of work around town. People knew me. My name came up as being a good candidate for commissioner and Town Supervisor Keith Langley approached me. I was appointed commissioner of public works in January 2014. I didn’t have another position within the department and I never worked for the town before. Now I’m in charge of the highway, water and sewer departments, the parks and all the grounds and buildings in the town.”

Anthony didn’t let his lack of experience stop him.

“The only area I didn’t have any background in was all the paperwork that comes with being commissioner. As far as running a pipe or an excavation job or making sure the guys snake lines out right when we have a problem in one of our sewer lines … I’m more than qualified. I’ve been operating equipment all my life.”

Still it was a big change for the self-employed businessman.

“The responsibility doesn’t bother me. I’ve had responsibility all my life being in business for myself and trying to get the jobs done. Dealing with the unions, however, is a lot different.”

Married to his wife, Denise, for 35 years, they have two children: Danielle, 33; and Anthony, 31. Denise had this to say about her husband’s job.

“My husband accepted the commissioner’s job to try and get this town back on track to being a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family. A lot of obstacles have been thrown in his path, but he is NOT a quitter and will keep trying to accomplish his goals.”

In his spare time this super likes to “help my son with the machines. It calms me down. I also enjoy camping and NASCAR racing. My favorite racecar driver? There’s only one — Dale. There’s quite a few that I like but Dale Jr. is my favorite. My brother, Thomas, was a stock car champion at Lebanon Valley Speedway and surrounding tracks. I drove a junker for a while. I gave that up. I realized the only way to make a million dollars in racing is to start with two million and sooner or later you’ll have that million. I didn’t have the money it takes to be competitive.”

When it comes time for retirement Anthony hopes to spend time down south.

“We’ve had a place in Florida for over 20 years. We probably will do winters down there.”

All About the Job

As commissioner Anthony is responsible for maintaining the town’s 70 lane miles of road and five of the county’s, all of which are paved. That converts into eight plowing routes that take about five hours to complete. In addition, the department is responsible for plowing the Town Hall, Waste Water Treatment Plant, 14 Pump Stations, the Transfer Station and all Town Park roads.

Winters like this past one take a toll on a municipality’s salt and sand supply.

“Our salt shed holds 1,600 tons. Normally, we need between 2,500 to 3,000 tons to get us through the winter. We mix two parts sand to one part salt. We seem to get more bang for our buck that way. The last couple of years since I’ve been here it’s been cold and the salt only works when the sun’s out. Years back salt worked the best because it was warmer.”

In addition to the salt shed, there is a 14,700 sq. ft. building that’s divided into four sections: the Highway and Water departments, maintenance garage and offices. The town also is upgrading its Sewer Treatment Plant, which is expected to be completed by July 2015.

Anthony’s crew of 30 full-time employees helps him serve the town’s 17,000 residents. Administrative staff includes Dan Fiacco, deputy commissioner; and Melissa Nusbaum, secretary to the commissioner. Highway Department employees are Rick Williams (foreman), George Forgea (foreman), Ed Wallace, Vince Memole, Jeff Nestler, Romaine Corellis, D. J. Whitman, Dan Speed, Reggie Bonner and Eric Albert.

Water Department staff includes Tom Kennedy (foreman), Nick Marino, John Herrington, Jason Dambrose, Jim Walsh and Doug Smith. Parks Department employees are Jim Hempstead and Frank Michael. Waste Water Treatment Plant employs George Lovely (foreman), Dave Williams, Jayson Ray, Brian Binck and Mike Brozowski; Transfer Station employs Brian Ginock, Scott Comstock and Matt Defrias; and Michael Donahue is in charge of building maintenance.

Under Anthony’s direction, the town of East Greenbush Public Works Department runs on a total operating budget of $8,112,207 that includes salaries and benefits for employees and an annual CHIPS allocation of $140,000.

To fulfill its responsibilities the county uses an extensive fleet of equipment.

Highway Department:

• 2004 Chevy P/U

• 2007 Chevy P/U

• 2002 Ford F150

• 2002 Ford F450 Dump

• 1999 Chevy Dump

• 1998 Mack Dump/Plow

• 2005 Gradall

• 2004/2006/2007/2012 International Dump/Plow

• 2003 Chevy S-10

• 1997/2001 Mack Dump/Plow

• 1985 Ford Utility Van

• 2003 Ford F250

• 1996/2004 Dump

• 2001 John Deere Loader

• 1991 Chevy Utility

• 1991 John Deere Loader

• 2004 John Deere Mower

• 2007 Chevy C1500 P/U

• 2003 Gehl Skid Steer

• 1986 Ford Dump

• 1986 Mack Race Truck

• 1989/1991 Ford Dump

• 1997 Ford Road Sweeper

• 2003 Bandit Chipper

• 2004 Cat Backhoe

• 1992 Chevy Race Truck

• 2002 Freightliner Boom

Water Department:

• 1997 Dodge P/U

• 2012 Ford P/U

• 2012 Ford F450 Dump

• 2012 Ford F250 Utility

• 2006 Freightliner

• 1990/2003 JCB Backhoe

• 2003 Bobcat Skid Steer

• 1990 Ford Dump

Sewer Department:

• 2003 Ford P/U

• 2007 Chevy P/U

• 2006 Ford TV Van

• 1997 Ford Tank/Jet

• 1990 GMC 7000 Camel

• 2002 Mack Tanker

• 1997 Mack Tractor

Parks Department:

• 1995 Hurst Trailer

• 1992 Krist Utility BK

• 1996 Custom Trailer

Currently, the department has no plans to upgrade its aging equipment.

“That hasn’t been done in years. There was no budget for new equipment when I took over. The town would bond the money if they needed trucks. They didn’t save anything and it’s still like that. We’re trying to get on track where we can save money and upgrade our fleet but once you get behind the eight ball that’s hard to do.

“We need so much. New dump trucks complete with plows and wings. All new pick-ups and one tons and a small track hoe so we can have one in our fleet. We need a new Bobcat and lawnmower for the Parks Department, a newer dump for the Water Department and the list goes on and on. We don’t want to bankrupt the town buying everything new. We need some good used vehicles to keep it [the town] running.”

While today’s equipment is more operator-friendly, it doesn’t mean new is better.

“More people can operate them but repairing them is tricky. A lot of it is computerized so you have to buy the $20,000 or $30,000 computer package to find out what’s wrong with the machine. You can buy a less expensive one but you won’t get the whole program.”

Anthony is fortunate to have two full-time mechanics on staff. Eric Albert keeps all the police cars running, while Anthony’s brother, Romaine, is the master mechanic for the town of East Greenbush.

“They both have their CDL license so they’ll go out and plow if someone’s sick or unavailable but come summer they’re strictly in the shop. Jeff Nessler also helps out.”

Only the commissioner of public works since January 2014, Anthony has an impressive record when it comes to improving the town.

“Since my appointment we’ve been accomplishing great things in East Greenbush that have been neglected for a long time. I believe we are making a positive difference for the good of the town and our residents. Our town Transfer Station has been cleaned up and we’re in the process of cleaning out the numerous retention ponds and putting a maintenance schedule in place for continuous upkeep.

“We implemented a beautification project for our parks with the help and knowledge of Jessica Lansing, our Town Services Coordinator along with Jimmy Hempstead and Frank Michaels. Needed maintenance has been performed on our town hall building and grounds and highway garage. We’re bringing our buildings into the 21st century and installed new, cost-effective, environmentally-friendly lighting at the garage and solar panels there and at the Waste Water Treatment Plant.”

The town’s infrastructure also is being upgraded. The pump pits have been — or are being — updated. The highway department is sliplining the sewer pipes rather than replacing them and new waterlines have been installed.

Initially, repairing the water main along Routes 9 and 20 was going to be bonded for $100,000. Under the direction of Water Department Foreman Tom Kennedy and Anthony, “we used town employees we were able to repair it for just over $10,000. In addition, instead of bonding $200,000 for a new sweeper/vacuum truck needed for our streets and to vacuum and maintain hundreds of catch basins throughout East Greenbush, required by New York State, we repaired the one we own for $14,000.”

The project Anthony is most proud of is revamping the town’s sewer plant facility on Routes 9 and 20.

“This is one of the biggest jobs going on in Rensselaer County right now. The bid was awarded to U.W. Marks Construction Company in 2013. Excavation started last February or March but a small spill set the job back.

“It’s a major overhaul. We’re putting in new blowers, pumps and electric. Total cost is $14 million. The town’s paying for it with a low-interest loan from Equipment Finance Corporation. We’re hoping to have everything paved by November and the facility completed by the end of the year.”

As Anthony will attest, no job is without its challenges.

“We’ve had two breaks in the 36-inch main that comes from the City of Troy that treats the town water. They’ve been very challenging. We hired an outside contractor to do that work because it’s too deep and too big a job for our guys. Not that they couldn’t do it if we had the equipment. We just don’t have it.”

Anthony also has been trying to get business to come back to the 9 and 20 corridor.

“It’s an uphill battle. There’s a lot of interest. Some residential projects are ready to pop. Work will begin on those this summer. A hotel will be going up on Route 4 and Temple Lane; a new NAPA store is coming to Routes 9 and 20; a medical facility will replace the old McDonald’s; and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals also will break ground this summer.”

If he could change anything about the job what would it be?

“There would be more money for the town so we could do the projects we want to do. I’d get new equipment, pave the roads, update all the water and sewer lines. Everything that needs to be done. Then my job would be complete and I could move on.”

About the Town*

The first settlement of the land now known as East Greenbush was made by tenants under Patroon Kiliaen Rensselaer prior to 1631, according to area history books. Historians are not clear when the first settlers arrived but there is an indication that it was in 1628 in the town known as Greenbush, which covered a large area on the east bank of the Hudson River. The Mohicans as a nation, did not leave their land on the east side of the Hudson, nor relinquish their rights Van Rensselaer until 1600.

The name “Greenbush” came from the Dutch “Green Bosch” from the pinewoods which originally covered the land. The early Town of Greenbush included the present Towns of East Greenbush, North Greenbush, a portion of Sand Lake, and a strip of land annexed to Troy in 1836.

On Feb. 23, 1855, by an act of Legislature, Greenbush Township was divided to form the town of Clinton and North Greenbush. The first meeting was held April 3, 1855 at the hotel of William R. Defreest, opposite the Greenbush Dutch Reformed Church. (Later the building was the East Greenbush Pharmacy, now a photography studio). The Town of Clinton was changed to “East Greenbush” two years later on April 14, 1858.

Foremost amount the earlier residents of the Town was Edmund Charles Genet, who came to this country as a minister, plenipotentiary, and consulate general of the French Republic, but later became an American citizen and settled in with first wife Cornelia Tappen Clinton and three children in a Van Rensselaer House. He purchased the house from his father-in-law, Governor Clinton. He later built a mansion on “Prospect Hill” on Hays Road. He died there July 14, 1831 and is buried behind the Greenbush Reformed Church.

The town was without early industries because it lacked waterpower. As one historian put it “Agricultural pursuits constitute the principal occupation of the inhabitants,” Grain and fruit were the main products.

During the War of 1812, extensive barracks were erected on the hills of Greenbush Village. Sometime after the war, the army camp abandoned and in 1831, by an act of Congress, the buildings, and 300 - acres of land were sold to Hawthorne McCulloch of Albany. In 1843, the original tract was divided into two parts, one of which he conveyed to his son, William A. McCullough of Hampton Manor. In 1880, the Village of East Greenbush contained a Dutch Reformed Church, a store, a hotel, a blacksmith shop and a number of homes. The Boston and Albany Post Road, which was laid out in 1800, passed through the center of the village. It is now known as Route 9 and 20 (a.k.a. Columbia Turnpike).

(*History courtesy of http://eastgreenbush.org/history)

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