21 Aug 2014
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Town Board Mulls Possible Abolition of Elected Highway Superintendent Post

Public hearing set for Aug. 14 in Huntington regarding possible Nov. 6 referendum; consolidation plan.

Town Board Mulls Possible Abolition of Elected Highway Superintendent Post

A public hearing has been set for Aug. 14 to consider a possible November referendum which could abolish the Department of General Services and create of a Department of Public Works in the .

If approved by voters Nov. 6, the plan would grant the Town Board authority to appoint in 2014 the position of superintendent of highways — currently an elected post chosen by voters.

The consolidation of the into the Public Works Department would be done for fiscal purposes and to promote efficiency, according to Town Supervisor . 

Three non-agenda resolutions were presented in executive session hours before Tuesday's meeting at Town Hall: the first, to create a Department of Public Works; a second to change the office of highway superintendent to an appointed office, and a third resolution to abolish the Department of General Services. All would require a public hearing and final Aug. 14.

Each resolution passed, 3-2, with Town Councilmen Gene Cook and Mark Mayoka opposed to the timing of the proposals.

Cook said voters — many of whom will be away on summer vacations — would not have a chance to voice opinions at the public hearing.

"I think this is not the right time to do this, I say we put it off until September," said Cook. "If we can't do that because of time restraints, put it off until next year."

Petrone said the proposal would have to be done in a timely manor to satisfy the requirement of the New York State Board of Elections so it gets on the November presidential ballot — when turnout is expected to be highest. 

An analysis regarding Town spending, equipment, operational and personnel costs would be done before the public hearing, according to Petrone.

"Perhaps there will not be a vast savings in the number of personnel but there certainly will be an opportunity then to deploy personnel throughout the town in other functions," said Petrone.

Cuthberston argued the decision to hold a public hearing in August is not as important as the final vote next month to decide whether or not the issue goes on the ballot in November.

"This is something we can offer to the voter and there can be educated debate and thought process about whether this would effect government consolidation and whether this would allow greater financial efficiencies," said Cuthbertson.

Warning against the possibility of changing the separation of duties within Town government, Mayoka said eliminating an elected position would take control and power away from the electorate.

"This is is why the majority of municipalities in New York have it separated," said Mayoka.

Relations between current Highway Superintendent and the Town of Huntington have been contentious in previous years.

A lawsuit,  in 2010 alleged Naughton severely compromised the Town Board's ability to perform its statutory duty to manage and amend its budget and finances, and create or abolish positions as it deems advisable by hiring eight men who were not approved by the Town Board.

In 2000, Naughton sued the Town for not allowing him to place five highway department employees on the payroll. The court sided with the Town, stating that salaries and positions of the employees were not included in the operating budget.

Mayoka said he was happy with current services provided by the Highway Department and questioned the efficiency of the plan.

If the resolutions pass, Naughton would remain in his position for remainder of his term and he could "remain in some capacity" after his term is complete, according to Cuthberston.

The consolidation idea was precipitated by a unanimous vote in Brookhaven regarding a similar proposal, according to Cuthbertson.

"We should look to the experience of our surrounding similar towns," said Cuthbertson.

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