Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack introduced the town board’s proposal to at Tuesday night’s workshop. Residents at the meeting questioned the merits of the idea. Currently the town has three garages with a total of 13 mechanics working in them.
The highway department garage employs seven mechanics. The police garage has four mechanics and two are based at the mini trans garage. The town board proposed a local law on May 15 “to transfer the function of highway department mechanics and consolidating all town mechanics under the Town Garage Department.” The head of that new department would be a fleet manager who would report to the board.
The department would be responsible for the repair, service and maintenance of town vehicles and equipment. The town has 344 vehicles. Town Supervisor Alex Gromack said with the consolidation, savings could be realized in the future.
“I think there are 13 mechanics,” he said. “If they’re all under one roof, one umbrella, you could probably downsize.”
Gromack said an internal review conducted by the controller’s office, personnel department and others estimated within the next few years between one and three mechanics would retire. If the garages were consolidated, those positions would not be filled because the mechanics would be cross-trained to work on all town vehicles. Gromack said if the mechanics could service all town vehicles, then there would be more flexibility in staffing when emergencies occurred.
Both Gromack and Board Member Frank Borelli brought up an independent consultant’s report that said consolidation was a good idea because there was an overstaffing of mechanics. When a resident asked for a written summary of the internal committee’s review, Gromack said the recommendation came from discussions.
The proposed consolidation of the garages would remove the highway mechanics from the supervision of Highway Department Supervisor Wayne Ballard. Community members questioned whether that change would alter Ballard’s job description.
Tom Trevor said separating Ballard from the people who repair his equipment separates him from his responsibility. Marge Hook asked the town board to show how money would be saved. She said she was contacting state officials to find out if the local law would be legal.
“We have the right to vote,” said Hook. “You do not have the right to remove his responsibilities. I think what’s going on really stinks.”
Town Attorney Amy Mele said there would not be a referendum.
“It’s our position that if the town board decides to go this way, it will be done in a way that does not require a referendum,” she said.
Ballard brought up a memo he had sent to the board members, which listed 36 concerns about the proposal. He made a recommendation, which he said would accomplish the same goals.
“As an alternate solution to Town Board’s management of this new department, I would like to propose to do the same as noted above but have the fleet manager report to the Highway Superintendent.”
Among his concerns:
How can a Highway Superintendent have the responsibility (powers and duties) of maintaining the roads and needed equipment and be successful without having direct access to the staff needed to keep the equipment well maintained to do those very tasks and be ready to respond to emergency situations?
Who will determine the size of the mechanics staff before during and after a weather event and in between snow storms?
Will the maintenance of the snow plow equipment be included in this consolidation?
Michael Hull of Bardonia brought up the question of oversight.
“The questions seems to be the chain of command under whom those garages will report to,” he said, adding “people in this county believe appointed positions are patronage positions.”
Another resident expressed her thoughts to the board.
“I don’t get it,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense.”
A public hearing on the consolidation is scheduled for Tuesday, June 19.