Nov 01, 2012 Erin Wisneski Uncategorized
Lysander and Van Buren residents will both have the chance to choose whether they want to see the position of highway superintendent changed to an appointed position or remain as an elected position within each town.
Since the referendum for both towns was placed on the ballots earlier this summer, constituents have questioned the need to change the long-standing custom. To help clarify their reasoning, supervisors Claude Sykes (Van Buren) and John Salisbury (Lysander) held an informational meeting Tuesday, Oct. 24, at Baker High School. Approximately 75 people showed up to the meeting.
Sykes, along with other Van Buren Town Board representatives, stressed the importance of accountability noting that previous occurrences in the highway department have led to a disconnect between the highway department and the town offices. For example, Councilor Mary Frances Sabin said there was a break in at the highway department and the town board didn’t hear about it until a check from the town’s insurance company came across the supervisor’s desk. In another instance, there was tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage done to a new vehicle purchased by the town as well as a lack of maintenance on the highway department fleet.
“An appointment has more people watching than elected,” Sykes said, noting that should the referendum pass in Van Buren, the town board plans to appoint current Highway Superintendent Doug Foster to the position.
John Van Wie, of Baldwinsville, asked what the boundaries of the position would be should it become appointed. Sykes responded saying once it becomes a competitive position, it is governed by civil service; it can be made more restrictive, but not less restrictive, and will remain a salary position with no overtime.
“It just moves from elected to appointed, everything else stays the same,” he added.
Both supervisors noted that under current town laws, any person appointed to the position must be a resident of the respective town. That law could change, however, as long as the town boards hold a public hearing.
It was also noted that this move was not being made to consolidate the services of the two towns’ highway departments with the village of Baldwinsville’s highway department. However, consolidation is on the table for future consideration, according to officials, but a study must be first. Baldwinsville resident Casey Ostrander said that the towns should conduct a study first, showing residents the benefit of giving up their vote, before placing the referendum on the ballot. Both supervisors said this would be a waste of money if residents were just going to vote the referendum down.
“The first step to see if the study is warranted,” Sykes said.
Salisbury added the Lysander board doesn’t want to expend monies before knowing whether movement will move forward. If the vote does pass, Salisbury, Sykes and Baldwinsville Mayor Joe Saraceni are all going to Albany to seek funds for the study.
Saraceni, who acted as mediator during the meeting, said having an appointed highway superintendent in the village has been very beneficial to the village as a whole.
“Improvement in the village over the past 15 years would have been very difficult if the highway superintendent didn’t agree with the direction the board was going,” Saraceni said. “Having the supervisor accountable to the board has made those goals possible.”
When told by an audience member that the towns were taking residents’ right to vote, Salisbury responded, “We’re not taking your vote, we’re giving you the choice. We hope in the end, there is a tax savings for you. You have to start some place. We have no hidden agendas, we’re not power hungry, we’re in a position to analyze the options.”
The referendum will be on the Tuesday, Nov. 6, ballot in both the towns of Lysander and Van Buren.