The Public Hearing regarding the Highway Superintendent Position being elected vs. appointed was held August 31st, 2011 at the Lindley Town Hall, 637 US 15, PO Box 62
Lindley, New York 14858.
Official Minutes held at Town Clerk’s Office
Town Board Members Present:
Richard Biggio – Town Supervisor
Lloyd DeMun, II – Councilman
Paul Mortzheim – Councilman
Gerry Simcoe - Councilman
Richard Johnson – Highway Superintendent
Paul Stermer – Councilman
- attendance list
- Dick Pierce’s Commentary
- Al Schoonover’s Commentary
- Legal Opinion
- Sally Orr’s Commentary
- Star Gazette Article
• Meeting was called to order by Richard Biggio at @ 7:02pm.
• Pledge to the flag completed.
Announcements by Richard Biggio:
• Richard introduced the meeting, indicating this was not a debate but an opportunity for residents to express their input on whether they felt the Highway Superintendent Position should remain an elected position or become an appointed one.
• Richard stated that over the past year, petitions had been received both in favor of, and in opposition to, the position becoming appointed. The Board determined that action was warranted and the public hearing was to address both points of view and decide if it would go to ballot.
o Richard read an article posted in the Star Gazette written by the President of the NYS Supervisor of Highways, reflecting opposition to making the position appointed.
o Richard read the letter sent by Sally Orr, reflecting her concerns that sending the referendum to a vote would potentially remove the voters rights to vote on this position in the future.
o Richard read a legal brief on a Highway Superintendent position becoming an appointed position, and that this would be beneficial to a town.
• Richard commented that the town is losing a very good man for the job, who has put in untold hours over the past 34 years.
Jack Smith: What was the Commission mentioned in the readings?
Jim Lundgren: This was Cuomo’s commission during his budget process. I would like the question of elected vs. appointed on the ballot in November. I am strongly in favor of an elected position. Our walls show pictures of people who served Lindley and they didn’t die so Lindley could give up their right to vote. This movement has been going on a long time. Our freedoms are being undermined as if we aren’t fit to vote. I’m fed up with my government telling me I shouldn’t vote. Ben Franklin was asked “what have you wrought”. He replied “a Republic, if you can keep it.”
Richard asked for an informal vote from the audience of who agreed with Jim’s sentiments. Large majority raised hands.
Dick Pierce: I have 39 residents on a petition to keep the Highway Position elected. We want to keep it elected. Dick Pierce read his comments: in summary: 1. Aware of Governor Cuomo’s Commission to reorganize NYS. The big push was to consolidate. 2. Abe Lincoln once said you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all of the time. Replace the word “fool” with the word “please” and you can appreciate Dick Johnson’s job. 3. I raised my right hand and swore to protect our constitutional rights. Please don’t give up your right to vote for our Superintendent of Highways.
Richard Biggio: We are here for the same reasons. We want better roads.
Al Salyerds: If it’s not on the ballot, will it stay elected? I’m against it going on the ballot.
Richard Biggio: Richard asked for a show of hands of who agreed that it should remain an elected position. Large majority raised their hands.
Discussion continued, with the following key points (audio is available for listening during Clerk hours):
• Qualifications of position – anyone can be elected in and then must pass the Civil Service Exam.
• A defensible plan developed by an engineer is needed.
• The 3-man crew for the past year has done an excellent job but is not best case for safety and snow removal.
• Pay and benefits currently stand at approximately $54,000. This is going to be reviewed during the budget season after September. Nothing has been discussed at this point. This job is salaried and so there is no overtime pay. Lindley Highway salary is comparable to most other towns. Current Benefits package is for 2 person home. Future benefits will be discussed during budget season.
• Al Schoonover: Three issues – Highway is the greatest expense and asset of the town. We’ve had the same Superintendent for 34 years in all kinds of weather, hours and health. He had 2 mentors, and he is responsible for: maintenance of 50+ miles of road; crew and staff; truck and equipment; repairs; paperwork; no extra pay; OSHA regulations; instruction of safe use of equipment; finances of $551,881/year which is 68% of the town budget.
• Discussion regarding if it’s appointed, there are 5 people vs. one person to manage all the above.
• Discussion of the absence of a current application. Richard Biggio is not running but would consult with the Board if asked. Cornell Local Roads also has a program that would greatly benefit the next Highway Superintendent. The Delta Engineers Road Use Agreement has looked at all roads and would be a good start. It wouldn’t take much to start improving the roads.
• At the current time there is no road plan. The Board went forward with the Delta Road study to prepare for future plans.
• Money is still allotted for Dust Control every year. The money used for the Delta project was not money taken from Dust Control. There is a surplus of money for Dust Control in the budget every year.
• If no one runs for the position this fall, someone will be appointed in January for 2 years. The individual previously interested should run. If he gets elected he can then see what discussions have occurred regarding benefits and salary. He can still keep his old job and decline the election if it doesn’t meet his needs. No meetings have occurred in public or private about the budget at this time.
• The salary and benefits would remain the same once determined at budget time, regardless if the position was appointed or elected.
• An appointed position would have duties that by law the Board cannot interfere with. An elected official has even more leeway. If appointed, there is a lot the Board can stipulate, but serves at the pleasure of the Board.
• If the appointed position gets elected through, it will remain an appointed position until the public goes through this process again and elects to make it an elected position.
Board discussed among themselves in the presence of the public. Paul Mortzheim made the motion that the Board pass a Town Law: the option to choose to make the Highway Superintendent Position an elected or an appointed position be placed on the November 2011 ballot. Roll: Gerry Simcoe – yes; Paul Mortzheim – yes; Richard Biggio – No; Lloyd DeMun – yes.
Richard Biggio called for an Emergency Meeting at 9:00 pm to write the local law voted on in the Public Hearing.
Resolution to Place the Highway Superintendent Elected vs. Appointed Question On the November 2011 Ballot
Whereas: the Town Board recognizes the local petitions supporting that the position of Highway Superintendent be placed on the ballot as a permissive referendum and,
Whereas: the office of the Highway Superintendent will be an appointed position for the term of two years, effective the general election of November, 2013.
Now Therefore be it resolved: the Town of Lindley in Steuben County, New York, puts forth on the 31st of August, 2011, Local Law #2 of 2011 entitled The Town of Lindley Highway Superintendent Referendum, to become effective during the next General Election in November, 2013.
Gerry Simcoe made the motion to adopt the Resolution. Richard Biggio seconded. Roll – all present agreed.
NOTE: The following day, clarification from the Board of Elections was sought, regarding how the question needed to be stated on the ballot. During this conversation, it was discovered that because this position was up for election this year, the Town Board needed to file the question 150 days prior to the election. This question will not appear on the General Election Ballot of November 2011.
Lindley Town Clerk