BY MARIA BROWNSELL
Watching officials spend taxpayer money doesn’t make residents happy, but neither does having unsafe roads from slippery leaves or snow. At Clarkstown’s town board workshop meeting on December 2, the cost of overtime in the Highway Department and town garages was a large part of the night’s discussion.
Wayne Ballard, superintendent of Highway, spoke about a new leaf program that they are exploring that involves a new type of “tent” bag that would make leaf cleanup much more efficient. He proposed a pilot program with it for next year. If this program is successful the amount of overtime required for leaf pickup will be greatly minimized.
Councilman George Hoehmann was concerned about seeing two people in plow trucks during last week’s snowstorm and asked about redeploying people to other jobs such as sidewalks if they don’t have their own plow routes. Ballard explained how that wouldn’t be possible due to such a small staff already and that sidewalks cannot be done until everything is absolutely finished with the roads, or the sidewalks may get covered all over again. As for the two people in the trucks, it could be people learning new machines or new routes.
Fleet Manager Dennis Malone explained how most of the highway’s overtime is from weather related repairs. He has plans on lowering costs in the highway department next year, by hiring two lower cost mechanics to fill three long time mechanics positions who are retiring. Over $300,000 will be cut down to just over $100,000. Police cars are also being changed over to ford explorers, so they won’t need mechanics to put on and take off chains from the tires, which results in a lot of overtime. He is also training someone to work saturday mornings for straight time instead of himself for overtime.
Another expenditure of tax dollar money that has been upsetting some residents is the board and commissions with their attendance policy. According to New City resident Marge Hook there are many people who sit on boards who hardly ever show up but still get paid. The Town Board agreed there needs to be an attendance policy that requires everyone to be at a minimum of 75 percent of the meetings.
The absences need to have good reasons and documentation should be provided. Councilwoman Stephanie Hausner agreed with Hook that not all boards need to meet on a monthly basis. Hoehmann said that if members don’t make the 75 percent minimum they shouldn’t be allowed to sit on the board. He recommended a year end review of all the boards.
As of next year minimum wage is being increased to $8.75 per hour, which will affect some of Clarkstown’s employees. The town board decided that they will need to bring up the salaries of anyone who is under the minimum wage but all others will stay the same.