Overwhelming Support for Town Highway Superintendent Position to Remain as Elected Post
At the August 14th, 2012 meeting of the Huntington Town Board, a public hearing was held regarding three resolutions pertaining to abolishing the elective office position of Highway Superintendent and creating an appointive office of Highway Superintendent, eliminating the Town’s General Services Department and finally establishing a Town Public Works Department. This newly created Department would have under it’s umbrella the new “Division” of General Services. Services to fall under this category include buildings and grounds, facilities management, parks maintenance, vehicle operations and maintenance and related inter-departmental services. Other divisions may be added to the newly created Public Works Department. The Department would consist of a Director that would serve at the pleasure of the Town Board and a Deputy Director for each division created within that department. The three resolutions were put forth by Supervisor Frank Petrone, Councilmember Susan Berland and Councilmember Mark Cuthbertson. Councilmembers Mark Mayoka and Eugene Cook were in opposition of these proposals. A vote on the resolutions may come within one week. If the actual resolutions are voted upon and approved, then a referendum vote on the Highway Superintendent issue would be held on election day, November 6th, 2012.
However, at the public hearing held on August 14th regarding these measures, the residents of the Town came out in earnest to speak on this issue. An overwhelming majority of the residents who spoke are in favor of keeping the Office of Highway Superintendent as an independently elected position. The major concern that residents expressed was the feeling that they are losing their right to vote and that it is more prudent to have the Superintendent position directly accountable to the voters of the Town and not the Town Board. Major support also came from six other elected Town Highway Superintendent’s from Long Island. Superintendent’s from Shelter Island, Southampton, East Hampton, Riverhead, Smithtown and Southold spoke out in favor of keeping the highway position as an elected post. Again, the major emphasis being that elected Town Superintendents have direct interaction and accountability with the public .
It was also evident that opposition was mounting against this proposal early on as Supervisor Petrone began to backpeddle. He stated that talks are ongoing to see if other options are available with regard to this issue. At the end of the one-sided public hearing Supervisor Petrone announced that a special session will be held within one week only if they decide to move forward with the proposal to put the issue up for a vote in November.