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Opponents Want Delay in Highway Department Plan

Need for more information cited in proposal to consolidate departments.

Opponents of a proposal that could abolish the Department of General Services say consideration of the plan should await the results of a state audit.

And some argue that the plan would cut into the power of voters to determine how highway services are run.

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

If approved by voters Nov. 6, the plan would give the Town Board authority to appoint in 2014 the job of superintendent of highways, which is now an elected position held by William Naughton.

But Town Board member Mark Mayoka said Wednesday, "The creation of a Public Works Department would transfer direction and control of the roughly 400 highway employees to the Supervisor. In addition, the Supervisor would control all the sub-contractors. There will be the same number of employees, the same number of buildings and the same equipment. So where are the savings?"

Mayoka and Councilman Eugene Cook opposed the plan when it was presented at a Town Board meeting in July. "By making the Superintendent of Highways an appointed position we the voters lose an independent advocate for the safety and improvement of our roads and drainage systems," they wrote in a letter this week.

"If the existence of an elected Highway Superintendent is shown to be cost prohibitive, let’s give the voters a voice in eliminating that position or not.  This can be accomplished by awaiting the determinations of the State Audit taking place right now," they said.

Other opponents set up the No DPW website, which cites a letter from the New York State Association of Town Superintendents of Highways that says, "Currently, the Highway Superintendent is accountable to the people of the town and should remain that way."

"Why should the voters give up their right to vote for the person that is responsible for the largest asset the Town has. It is generally accepted that each mile of road is about $1 million to replace. There are 790 miles of Town roads which means that the Superintendent of Highways watches over $790 million worth of infrastructure.

"If you don’t like the job he/she is doing then vote him/her out of office. This is what the residents of Huntington have been doing since 1909.," the site's advocates say.

At the July meeting, Petrone said the proposal would have to be done in a timely manner 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. 

"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.

Town spokesman A.J. Carter said residents should make their views known through emails or calls to all Town Board members.

The public hearing is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Rob Onion August 12, 2012 at 11:30 AM
The comments on this article are not shared through all PATCH sites. The Huntington and Northport Patch have additional comments from the public. I find it bizarre that that this will impact everyone in the Township of Huntington yet Patch has chosen to keep the comments of all township people in isolation.

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