TOWN OF HAMPTON, NEW YORK
With the decision of the current Highway Superintendent not to run for office this year, the Town Board is reviewing the benefits of having an Appointed Highway Superintendent vs an Elected Superintendent. At the January Town Board meeting we will be starting the discussion. We welcome your input as we start this journey. While we can not have in person meetings we will allow people to join via zoom, by phone, or to send us comments by Email or Letter. I will include the link to zoom and phone information at the bottom of this email.
This is a long process and not a decision made lightly. Ultimately there will be public hearings to get residents input as well as a voter referendum (election) because it is ultimately the residents decision. We owuldexpect the referendum to occur in April or May.
It is worthy to note that all villages, cities and counties in New York State have appointed highway officials while only towns have elected Highway Superintendents. There is also a trend across New York State for towns to change from Elected to Appointed by choice of the residents. Ninety-one (91) towns in New York State have made this change.
It is important to understand the difference between Elected vs Appointed Highway Superintendents. The basic difference is that anyone over 18 who is a resident of the town can run for highway superintendent. They require no experience, knowledge or skills simply the ability to win an election. In Hampton the term is for four years. Additionally they can not removed from office for any reason except by the NY State Supreme Court or by act of the Governor. Except for overall budgetary in the annual budget process the Town Board has no say in what the Highway Superintendent spends nor how he executes his duties. In larger towns most highway superintendent work full time and are paid a comparable salary. However, in smaller towns like Hampton there is not the budget to pay needed full time workers and pay a salary for a full time superintendent. To afford that salary level we would have to lay off one of the workers. The problem is that as currently structured by law the superintendent does not have to keep hours nor dedicate his time to the town. In fact there have been superintendents in other towns who spend minimal time at their job creating a vacuum of who is to make and implement decisions. For safety sake and in order to complete operations we need two people full time plus an active contribution of the highway superintendent.
An appointed Highway Superintendent is hired by the Town Board based on the qualifications set by the Town Board. Qualifications would cover experience, skills, and ability to do the job as required. The Highway Superintendent would also be expected to work full time maintaining hours set by the Town Board. If the appointed official was not capable or did not perform the job as set by the qualifications and expectations, the Town Board would be able to do evaluations on the official and make corrections and suggestions as needed. The Town Board would also be able to work with the Superintendent to plan on how roads are paved, what tasks need to be completed, what the priorities would be. Also The Town needs a long term plan for the highways. Our roads are aging and need repair. In short with an appointed official you have a town board of five and the highway superintendent working jointly to make plans and solve problems. Also we would be able to expand the pool of applicants for the Highway Superintendent position outside of the Town borders in order to attract more qualified candidates. We do give preference to town residents but having the right person in the position is important.
If we made the change we would be able to divide the current highway official's salary between two full time people. This would provide a salary to attract and retain a skilled and experienced highway Superintendent and also increase the salary of the second person which would allow us to retain better qualified employees. Finding highway workers is hard today and often we are outbid by towns who can pay higher salaries. We need to be competitive in attracting people.
We have been lucky to have good highway superintendents. However, with the skyrocketing cost of paving and the myriad of options available to maintain the roads we need the most qualified people on the job to help maintain good, safe roads. Budgetary concerns and not exploring all the options can lead to deferred maintenance of town property leading to increased costs and less safe roads.
I am also attaching more information your your review. Thank you.