Mayor defends sidewalk repair

The Leader-Herald

FONDA – Mayor Bill Peeler says the Department of Public Works resources he’s been accused of abusing are available to all village residents – and he and the Board of Trustees have been hoping residents would take advantage of them.

Peeler in the last few weeks has come under fire in letters to the editor and a television news report that said he used village workers to replace the sidewalk in front of a building he owns on Broadway, where he plans to relocate his business.

DPW laborer Charles Peterson Jr. took cellphone photos of the work and shared them with a television news crew. Peterson later was fired, and family members pressed Peeler and village trustees for answers at Monday’s meeting.

“We just want a reason why he was fired,” asked Peterson’s wife, Krista. “Was it all about that incident with the photos?”

“I will not direct these answers to you. We won’t be having this exchange,” Peeler replied during the meeting.

His mother-in-law, Mary Jane Tzaskos, also pressed the issue Monday.

“Why did Charlie get fired?” she asked the board. “He went home without any paper indicating why he was fired, and he hasn’t received any yet.”

Peeler and board Trustee Walter Boyd had no comment on Peterson’s employment status.

DPW workers last month began replacing the sidewalk in front of a building at 25 Broadway, which Peeler plans to use as an office for his private security business, The Peeler Group, which is now on East Main Street.

Peeler today said his replacement is part of a sidewalk-replacement program offered to all village residents – a program that has been around for years but saw little traction until it was promoted in town publications, including the spring newsletter.

Under the program, which is similar to other municipalities, village property owners pay for materials but Department of Public Works staff perform the work, using public equipment.

Peeler was reportedly accused by Charles Peterson of also using DPW employees and equipment to replace a driveway at the property.

Peeler said village workers “hauled away a few loads of asphalt for me” that had been excavated from the adjacent driveway. But he characterized that as a tradeoff for allowing workers to use a mini-excavator he’d rented for them to use for the sidewalk, instead of more inefficient village equipment.

“To say that I would improperly do something at such little cost to me for the allegation is preposterous,” Peeler said at the meeting. “Anything and everything that I do is approved by our Board of Trustees. There’s no cover-up, there’s no nothing.”

Peeler said the sidewalk-replacement program is available to all village residents, but 20 property owners were specifically targeted. Twelve of them are taking advantage, including one whose project recently was completed.

Casey Croucher can be reached at [email protected]. Bill Pitcher contributed to this story.

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