Baldwinsville Both Lysander and Van Buren officials have had discussions about changing elected town positions to appointed positions, specifically that of the highway superintendent.
At the July 9 Lysander board meeting, resident Mike Bishoff asked the board if it was considering eliminating elected positions, a rumor that he heard was going around. Supervisor John Salisbury responded saying, “Any discussions we have had have been in executive sessions.” Salisbury also alluded to a leak of those executive discussions and told Bishoff the board plans to hold a public hearing sometime in August regarding any change.
While Lysander officials are keeping mum thus far, Van Buren is ready to vote upon the issue and Van Buren Supervisor Claude Sykes champions the move from elective to appointed highway superintendent.
According to Sykes, this action appears to be a growing trend among towns across the state.
Prior to becoming supervisor, Sykes served for more than 30 years as Baldwinsville’s highway superintendent, which was an appointed position, and has a good understanding of both the pros and cons of changing the position from elective to appointed.
“I have seen both sides of this issue and I believe that an appointed superintendent offers the municipality more accountability, cooperation, oversight and transparency,” Sykes said. “The highway department budget is the largest in most towns and with an elected superintendent you have only one person responsible for in our case a $2 million dollar budget, while other town departments, which have much smaller budgets, have the department head and the entire town board responsible for the budget.”
“Most taxpayers believe that the supervisor and town board oversee the highway superintendent, which is not true. They operate autonomously of the town board. Having an appointed position would create a partnership with the town board to ensure best management measures are employed for the taxpayers,” Sykes continued, adding the public typically has limited knowledge and criteria on which to judge their elected superintendent such as are the roads plowed, maintained and swept when these actually account for the minority of a superintendent’s duties.