YORKTOWN, N.Y. - A newly formed citizens group, which includes two former town supervisors, is calling for a mandatory public referendum to be placed on this November's ballot to eliminate highway superintendent as an elected position.
Instead, Yorktown Citizens for a DPW would like the highway division to be part of a Department of Public Works, a change already adopted by several other municipalities in Westchester, including neighboring Cortlandt.
"We're not doing this because there's problems with the Highway Department. We're doing this to save money," said David Humphrey. "It's a window of opportunity."
The group is aiming for a referendum this fall because the four-year term of current Highway Superintendent Eric DiBartolo expires on December 31, 2013. If approved, the DPW would become operational as of January 2014.
"If we don't get the referendum on the ballot in time for this November's election, we'll have to wait four more years, and that means four more years of lost savings," said group spokesperson Renee Fogarty, who co-authored a study in 1995 that estimated a DPW would save the town at least $300,000 in salaries alone. "We firmly believe that by following the example set by many of our neighboring towns, Yorktown can save taxpayer dollars."
Supporting the effort are former Supervisors Susan Siegel and Aaron Bock, who both maintained that "an institutional problem" with the current structure stood in their way of getting things accomplished with issues concerning roadways and drainage.
"It was just frustrating to work in that system," said Bock, who served from 1992 to 1995. "That's why we conducted the study. It's not the person; it's the way government is set up."
Group members insisted the proposed move was not directed at DiBartolo, who declined to comment when notified about the campaign.
However, Steve Gardner, a 52-year town resident who works in the construction field, said he was not in favor of taking the highway superintendent position out of voters' hands.
"I don't see where it would save any money," he said. "Keeping the department with an elected head gives the taxpayers the best bang for the buck because they're an advocate for the taxpayers."
Fogarty asked the Yorktown Town Board on Monday night to begin the process of adopting a local law that would pave the way towards a referendum.
"I think it's worthwhile to have a discussion," said Supervisor Michael Grace. "It's not that simple of an issue, because the town is made up of so many districts."
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