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North Collins Highway Department adding full-time employee despite some board objections

Highway Superintendent David Winter made his pitch again to add one full-time employee to his labor force, a pitch he had made since January. This time, the North Collins Town Board agreed by a 3-2 vote.

Winter said the only reason the current system has been working for the town is that he is a working superintendent essentially being the fourth laborer. However, he said the department is working without any depth if one or more employees are unable to perform their duties.

He also revealed that he has been postponing a surgery he requires in order to keep up with the current work load. Winter added that the town has benefitted from mutual aid from neighboring towns in obtaining additional resources and personnel for larger projects, but, when it is time to pay them back, it leaves Winter as the sole worker on some days in the town.

Town Supervisor Rosaline Seege has been fielding complaints about the conditions of the town parks ball diamonds this year and that seemed to work in favor of the vote with Winter saying a new hire would primarily be assigned to the parks during the summer.

Seege also said there is currently a $40,000 line in the budget, a sum that has been set aside for a number of years for the express purpose of adding a fourth highway position. While she said the amount would cover the added expense for the remainder of this fiscal year, it was not made known how much a full-year’s salary would amount to.

Councilman George LoBianco voiced his opposition to adding the position and was joined by Councilman Jeffrey Krauss in opposing the proposition. LoBianco and Krauss earlier this year put through cost containment measures concerning health insurance benefits and stepped pay rates for new hires. LoBianco and Krauss suggested getting bids for an outside provider to mow the town’s parks if it was too much work for the highway department. LoBianco further asked the board to hold off on a vote until the current Rocky Mountain Road lawsuit is finalized.

He further urged restraint while the board is looking into town regulations on family hiring. Winter has faced some criticism for hiring his son for a recent vacancy.

Winter addressed the issue stating “You don’t have to worry, I don’t have anymore sons.” LoBianco snapped back, “But you have daughters.” With Seege and Councilmen Marian Vanni and Michael Perry voting for the hire. LoBianco said he was “appalled by the vote.”

The issue over reporting and recording town bills was much calmer than a week earlier with Seege and Town Clerk Margaret Orrange engaging in a much more discussion-based forum. Orrange’s opposition to Seege’s implemented and proposed changes in town operations seemed to soften a bit with the clerk offering suggestions.

“You’re working with someone else’s budget, you should wait until you submit your first budget and then make your changes,” Orrange said.

She added that bills should go to department heads first for verification. That change has been already made for the highway department, but he reported that some bills were still going to the supervisor. He has no problem with the supervisor receiving copies of all invoices but was worried about his accountability to the vendors he deals with. The board passed a formal resolution directing all highway bills go directly to Winter’s office.

Following the discussion, Seege, who had planned to introduce several resolutions concerning changes, declined to introduce them at the meeting.

The meeting brought former Supervisor Thomas O’Boyle into the issue who strongly denounced Seege’s plans for financial accountability.

O’Boyle told Seege “I have watched for six months. You are the fiscal officer and preside at meetings. You don’t tell the clerk and highway superintendent what to do, you are not their boss.” O’Boyle added, “I ran one meeting a month in an hour and a half. You are running two meetings a month and there is nothing but arguments.” He also said that he felt part of the current problems stemmed from having a lone bookkeeper.

“I feel sorry for her, she’s overwhelmed, that’s why I had three people keeping the books,” O’Boyle said.

Seege chose not to debate simply saying “I know I’m not their boss.”

The board held two public hearings. The first, a special use permit for an antique tractor pull on the Blidy property in July met with no public comment and was approved.

The second was a presentation of Public Law No. 1, which would give the town permission to demolish dangerous structures. Town Attorney Richard Schaus said the wording is identical to the law currently in effect in the village. If the code enforcement officer determines a structure is dangerous to public safety, he may issue a notice giving 15 days to rectify problems. Following that period the code officer may request demolition from the town board. If approved the supervisor would then ask the court for an order of demolition with the cost being added to the parcels tax bill. Again, there were no comments from the public.

Code Enforcement Officer Phil Tremblay reported that he had secured two bids for the demolition of a problem structure on Langford Road. T.J Winter bid $2,000, while Fox Construction submitted a bid of $1,500.

Winter asked for and received a $5,000 budget line transfer to continue work on changing all road signs in the town to highly-reflective ones. He also suggested the board place additional funds into the signage line for the next several years to meet full compliance requirements by 2015.

LoBianco reminded the board that a proposal to establish a wind turbine ordinance has languished and should be brought back to the table since the first windmill was approved.

With that structure going up, he expects other property owners in town to also make plans for wind power. He also asked the board to consider offering some kind of incentive such as that currently being discussed in Niagara Falls, to attract young professionals with a program to help pay off college loans. His idea would be similar but smaller in scope .

“We need to go after a positive image,” he said.

Tracy Mallaber addressed the board again seeking the status of her 1099 tax form from her employment as a bookkeeper with the town last year.

Seege replied that she had investigated and that the amount paid was below the $600 necessary to provide a 1099.

Mallaber disagreed saying the amount was above that. She also asked why the town was not responsible for the condition of the ball diamonds and she criticized the board for what she felt were derogatory comments made about volunteer firemen and their complaints about ball field conditions. “What do they do for the Town?” she asked. “When that alarm goes off at three in the morning, my husband runs out the door.”

The entire board stated they never made negative comments about the firemen.
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