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Highway candidates seek Democratic line

Democratic voters in West Seneca on Tuesday will choose between an incumbent highway superintendent running on his record, with the support of several unions, and a reform-minded challenger with little money and a long list of changes he'd like to make.

Matt English, a 27-year veteran of the town's buildings and grounds, sanitation and highway departments, was appointed highway superintendent in March to fill the vacancy left when Patrick Finnegan died.

English said he wants to control spending to avert a tax increase, and at the same time, maintain services such as garbage pickup, leaf removal and snowplowing.

His opponent, Albert W. Petko, is calling for a 5 percent to 10 percent increase in overall spending for the highway department, and wants a 75 percent reduction in overtime. The highway department spent about $850,000 in overtime in 2008.

"The only overtime would be in weather emergencies and during the winter for salting and snow removal," he said.

English said most of the overtime results from weather-related situations.

Petko also says he would take a pay cut of $11,650 off the highway superintendent's budgeted salary of $76,650. And he plans to not accept town-paid health benefits or a town vehicle or cell phone.

Petko, 60, has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Marquette University. Now a store manager for a major retail chain, he has also worked as director of materials management at DeGraff and Children's hospitals.

English, 46, has attended Erie Community College and Buffalo State College. He has been involved with youth sports as a parent and coach for more than 20 years, including the West Seneca Hockey Association, West Seneca Little Loop Football and Buffalo Junior Sabres.

He has been endorsed by several unions, including the police unions in Buffalo and West Seneca, as well as the CSEA, the UAW and the Ironworkers Union, he said. English, 46, has raised $15,000 -- nearly 10 times as much as Petko.

Petko also has taken aim at some of the contributions English has taken.

After Petko brought public attention to $520 received from the West Seneca Youth Hockey Association -- a nonprofit that is barred by federal law from making political contributions -- English returned the contribution.

If Petko loses the Democratic primary, he will not appear on the ballot in November's general election, while English has several minor-party lines.

e-mail: mpasciak@buffnews.com

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