22 Aug 2014
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Tarrytown Board: Trustee Basher Falls Ill at Contentious Meeting

Heated remarks over layoffs and new DPW superintendent preceed Basher's collapse.

Tarrytown Board: Trustee Basher Falls Ill at Contentious Meeting Tarrytown Board: Trustee Basher Falls Ill at Contentious Meeting Tarrytown Board: Trustee Basher Falls Ill at Contentious Meeting

Last night's Tarrytown Board of Trustees Meeting ended abruptly when Trustee Tom Basher after suffering chest pain and hyperventilation. An ambulance and paramedics were called, but Basher was not transported to the hospital. Basher said earlier in the meeting that he was not feeling well.

Basher's collapse was preceded by heated exchanges between the Board and several residents who objected to proposed personnel cut backs outlined in the proposed 2012-2013 budget and the hiring of a new superintendent for the Department of Public Works.

Prior to the public comments period, village administrator Michael Blau outlined the proposed budget which holds a 4.87% tax increase, equivalent to $197.65 per property owner, and the elimination of a police dispatcher, conversion of full-time jobs to part-time jobs for the senior recreation leader and community services worker/parking enforcement officer (position now vacant) and a reduction is part-time staffing hours in the Justice Court. 

"This was a difficult budget," said Blau. "We reviewed 12 positions and analyzed the positions, not the people. There was no review to see if they were doing a good or bad job."

In addressing complaints about the elimination of a police dispatcher position, Blau said the village is mandated by law to have a police officer on duty simultaneous with the dispatcher. 

"The police officer who sits there now will take over the job of dispatcher," said Blau. 

John Stiloski demanded to know how many calls the dispatcher takes during the day. "If you don't know, how can you decide that his job is not needed?" 

"I can't say there will be no impact on service, but the police chief said this is workable," replied Blau.

"We have $100,000 for a trail (referring to the Tarrytown Lakes Trail project), but we don't have money for a dispatcher?" asked Stiloski.

"The two costs are not equitable," said Mayor Drew Fixell. "The trail funds are a one-time expense."

Pat Russell, a labor relations director with the Civil Service Employees Association (SCEA) union representing state county and municipal employees, urged the board to reconsider the personnel changes. 

"Police dispatchers play a huge role in keeping Tarrytown police officers safe," said Russell, "and downgrading the recreation department position to part-time just one year-and-a-half before this person retires robs him of his medical insurance and ruins his career."

"As a union rep, did you come up with any alternatives to save these jobs?," asked Trustee Doug Zollo.

Russell said she had discussed some alternatives with the village administrator, but did not elaborate.

"Two weeks ago, this Board voted to hire a part-time parking enforcement officer," said Eleanor Miscioscia. "And now we are getting rid of the police dispatcher."

"That job actually generates income for the village," said Blau.

The budget public hearing was then closed. 

During the general public comments period, several Department of Public Works employees expressed frustration over the creation of a new superintendent position within the DPW and the hiring of someone outside the community to fill it.

"People who know the village got looked over for this position," said DPW employee William McGuire. "The best way to show people that you think the DPW is doing a good job is to promote from within."

"We are confused," said Darrell Lindsay. "You have taken away from us the opportunity to be promoted."

"You are right," said Mayor Fixell. "Hiring a superintendent does put a damper on the opportunity for promotion."

The new superintendent lives in Beacon, NY and was selected from among six who were interviewed from a list of qualified civil service personnel. There were no qualified within the Tarrytown DPW. The new superintendent will start April 25.  

"So this guy lives in Beacon and the village is going to have to pay for his gas and insurance to commute to work," said Eleanor Miscioscia.   "Morale has been in the crapper since the deadly accident. How do you think these guys will feel now."

The village has been without a DPW superintendent for several years, according to Trustee Basher, because previous board's "wanted to go in a different direction."  Mike McGarvey has been filling the position, in addition to heading the Building Department and acting as the village engineer.  McGarvey will now go back to the Building Department full-time.

"I have been harping on this for years. We have been without a DPW super for years. So I am the bad guy here," said Basher. "The new DPW super can now focus on the department and continue and increase training for our employees."

On another issue, John Stiloski asked if a recent $340,000 purchase of gear for the fire department was put out to bid.  

"It is being investigated," said Mayor Fixell. "We don't have the answers yet." 

"You are not following fire department procurement policies," charged Stiloski.

Fixell cautioned Stiloski about making accusations on-camera based on "little bits of evidence."

The meeting was then adjourned to Wednesday 7 p.m. due to Basher's sudden illness.







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