The Town of Huntington’s proposals would change highway superintendent to an appointive office and create a department of public works.
The Huntington Town Board has set Aug. 14 for public hearings on three proposals aimed at streamlining Town government and making it more efficient and accountable by converting the job of highway superintendent to an appointive, rather than elective, position and consolidating the general services department into a to-be-created department of public works.
If, after the public hearings, the Town Board decides to go ahead with the measures, voters will be asked to approve the change in the highway superintendent’s status in a referendum as part of the Nov. 6 general election. The two other measures do not require voter approval. If approved by the voters, the change would take effect Jan. 1 2014, after the end of the highway superintendent’s current term.
“Increasingly, Towns across the state are approving these measures, as they look to save taxpayer dollars in difficult economic times,” Supervisor Frank P. Petrone said. “Making the highway function accountable to the Town Board and consolidating departments with similar functions should produce savings in personnel and equipment costs and eliminate duplication, allow for more efficient scheduling and reduce the need to engage outside contractors for some work.”
“We are proposing these measures now so that the question of eliminating the elected highway superintendent can be put to the voters in a presidential election year, when voter participation is greatest,” Councilman Mark Cuthbertson said. “We encourage Town voters to participate in the debate between now and Election Day and then to cast their ballot. I am confident that when voters weigh the issues, they will conclude that this change is necessary to hold down taxes and make government more responsive to their needs.”
“When issues arise, voters come to the Town Board with their problems. Making the highway function accountable to the Town Board will help the board solve those problems more quickly and economically, especially if the situation can be addressed by a single department,” Councilwoman Susan Berland said. “I encourage residents to attend the public hearing or send us an e-mail with their views.”
The Town is conducting a detailed analysis to pinpoint potential savings.
Among the State’s 50 largest Towns, 40 percent have already changed the status of highway superintendent to an appointive office. The Brookhaven Town Board last week set hearings next month on three similar resolutions, and voters in upstate Ossining will be asked to approve the change in a November referendum.
The public hearings will be held at 7 p.m., in the Town Board meeting room.
In other action, the Town Board:
— authorized an agreement with a consortium that includes the Town of Huntington Economic Development Corp., the Huntington Village Business Improvement District, the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce and The Paramount Theater to share in the cost of hiring a consultant to conduct a parking study of Huntington Village. The $43,530 study will be conducted by the New York City firm Nelson Nygaard. The Town’s share of the cost is $7,906.
— approved a contract for construction of a fish guard at the Heckscher Park Pond spillway. Installation of the fish guard is a precursor to stocking the pond with grass carp in an effort to control submerged vegetation growth that is severely impairing recreational use of the pond.
— approved a $962,000 contract with Structural Preservation Systems Inc. for rehabilitation of the South Parking Garage at the Huntington Long Island Rail Road station. The work will include structural concrete repairs; removal and replacement of deteriorated concrete surfaces; installation of new expansion joints and stair treat concrete repairs.
— authorized the Supervisor to apply for, and receive, $460,075 from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, as part of its regional Economic Development and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Grant Program, for the design and construction of a 65kW Micro Turbine for Combined heat and Power at the Huntington Sewage Treatment Plant. The turbine will run on a blend of methane gas, a byproduct of the sewage treatment process, and natural gas. The electricity generated by the turbine will reduce the sewer district’s demand for electricity and save on heating costs. The Town will be required to contribute one-fourth of the cost of the project, or $153,359.
— adopted the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s “Climate Smart Communities Pledge” for a coordinated local, state and national response to climate change. Also taking part in the pledge are Babylon, Brookhaven, Islip and Smithtown. This program is allied in purpose with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, in which the Town is also participating.
— took action on two Huntington Station houses to be rehabilitated by Housing Help. Inc. and sold as affordable housing under the Take Back the Blocks program. One measure allows the Town to purchase for $35,179.61 the property at 61 Norwich St. Suffolk County seized in a tax foreclosure and sell it to Housing Help for the same price. Housing Help purchased the second property, at 126 E. 10th St., for $150,000, and will use a $120,000 loan from the Town’s Municipal Housing Development Fund to finance the necessary renovations. The loan, which will carry a one percent interest rate, has a term of 18 months.
— approved a contract with Emergency Communications Network (CODERED) as the provider for the Town’s Huntington Alert emergency notification system. In a separate resolution, the Town Board approved the Town’s updated Emergency Operations Plan.
— passed resolutions declaring Sept. 11 as Patriot Day and Oct. 27 as Pit Bull Awareness Day (as part of October becoming Adopt a Shelter Dog Month).