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The heated race for Lancaster’s highway superintendent goes deeper than how well the roads are cleared and maintained, brush pickup and drainage issues.

The battle between one-term Democratic incumbent Highway Superintendent Daniel J. Amatura and political newcomer Joseph M. Brainard has some testy undercurrents to it – with Brainard, 50, complaining loudly about poor highway budgeting and a lack of accountability and productivity in the highway ranks.

The highway chief’s post pays $69,788 a year, plus a $5,450 stipend as the town’s part-time drainage coordinator. It carries a four-year term.

However, Amatura, 65, said he is qualified for the post, with more than 30 years of construction experience and describes himself as a “hands-on manager” overseeing a 30-member staff and his budget. He also is a former six-year town councilman who describes his department’s $3.3 million budget as stable while he is also looking to keep the tax rate down and provide needed services to residents.

Brainard, the Republican candidate and supporter of Republican Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli, said he could instantly lower the highway budget. He also is portraying himself as more fiscally responsible than Amatura and more experienced. Buffalo developer Carl Paladino has even reached into the race, endorsing Brainard.

“The only reason Dan looks successful is because he has a great core of guys,” said Brainard of Bowmansville, who is president of Braico Enterprises, which includes Double Down Transportation Services. “The highway workers have reached out to me and said they feel like puppets. It’s like a dictatorship.”

Amatura, also the co-owner of Frank’s Grille on Broadway, said he implemented an emergency plan for bad weather to ensure that Lancaster’s roads are plowed, salted and safe for emergency vehicles and the public. Also topping his campaign platform is creating a capital improvement program to maintain infrastructure and using the townwide drainage fund to continue the comprehensive drainage program. He also wants to adopt a more environmentally friendly “green” program for the town.

Amatura also carries the Independence, Conservative and Working Families lines.

“I don’t believe my opponent has any experience to run this department,” he said. “Co-owning a trucking company does not give you the experience to run a highway department or respond to the needs of the residents. I’m familiar with the residents’ needs.”

Brainard says he has a strong work ethic and would be a better highway chief.

“I am a clean-cut, hard-working husband, father, business owner who is just in the right time of his life to pay forward and help the Town of Lancaster get back a fiscally sound place to live,” he said. “The spending is out of control.”

Internal Revenue Service records show that Brainard on April 20, 2011, satisfied $271,624 in federal tax liens dating to Oct. 15, 2010. Asked about the debt, Brainard at first said there had been no tax lien against him. In a subsequent email to The News, he said: “The tax lien was over a property sale, and that is what held up the tax filing (he filed an extension) and was resolved 43 days from lien filed.”

email: krobinson@buffnews.com