The Clarkstown Town Board voted four to one on Tuesday night to adopt a local law under a new town garage department to be supervised by the town board. Councilmember Shirley Lasker voted against the transfer of mechanics from the town highway department, mini trans and town garage to a single town garage. She also opposed the creation of the fleet manager position to operate the town garage.
Lasker sought other opinions before making her decision.
“I believe this is illegal and I think it’s going to be overturned in court,” she said.
Lasker explained she felt the move takes away the authority of Town Highway Superintendent Wayne Ballard over the mechanics responsible for maintaining highway department equipment. She consulted with the attorneys for the state Association of Towns and read state comptroller opinions.
Lasker said unfortunately a compromise that was in negotiations failed. According to Lasker, that option would have had Dennis Malone, who currently runs the Mini Trans and the expected candidate for fleet manager, work under Ballard. She said Malone declined that possible resolution.
The town board obtained a legal opinion from outside counsel, Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker LLP, on the proposed law.
“You have asked us to review whether the Town Board may lawfully re-assign mechanics who work in the highway department to a central vehicle maintenance facility that is not under the supervision of the Highway Superintendent. Our opinion is that the Town Board may do so.”
The law firm cited the towns of Whitestown in Oneida County and Blooming Grove in Orange County as examples of municipalities where similar consolidation took place.
After the meeting, Ballard noted the Rockland County Personnel Department, Rockland County Highway Department and State Highway Superintendent must still approve the law.
“I am disappointed that the town board saw it another way,” he said. “I have to respect their opinion on it and see how things are going to go and hopefully it will work out.”
The town board revised the local law to state it does not reduce the powers of the highway superintendent as required by state highway law.
“It reinforces that this law will not and does not diminish any statutory powers and duties of the Town Superintendent of Highways by this consolidation.”
The creation of the fleet manager job would mean an increase of approximately $4,000 in Malone’s salary.
New City resident Marge Hook was one of several audience members wearing black t-shirts with white lettering that said, “We love you Wayne.”
She spoke against the law.
“I feel the town is being blackmailed,” she said. “I believe this is an illegal move to begin with.”
Guy Gervasi supported the decision because of the anticipated savings. He said if it can be done legally people should put personalities aside to make it work.
“I recommend that consolidation should go through,” he said.