YORKTOWN, N.Y. The Yorktown Town Board declined a request Tuesday night to schedule an informational meeting and a public hearing on an increasingly controversial proposal to replace the elected highway superintendent position with a department of public works (DWP).
Yorktown Citizens for a DPW, a primarily grassroots citizens group that includes former supervisors Susan Siegel and Aaron Bock, is hopeful of meeting a Sept. 1 deadline to schedule a Nov. 6 town-wide referendum.
However, Supervisor Michael Grace and the majority of the town board said the plan to change a 200-year tradition of having an elected highway superintendent was too important to rush without being thoroughly studied.
"There is a reason for this history. You're taking away from the public the choice of having another elected office. There is a philosophical case to be made to not change it," Grace said. "We're going to change the historical structure of the town. That's not insignificant."
Members of Yorktown Citizens for a DPW have said their motivation to have several town departments under one roof is strictly cost savings and is not directed at the performance of current Highway Superintendent Eric DiBartolo.
Council member Nick Bianco said he is not convinced that's the case. "Let's cut to the chase, Bianco said. This is all about they don't want him."
DiBartolo, who said he would not be seeking reelection next year, said it's against New York State law to make an elected highway superintendent an appointed position. He also refuted the claims of Yorktown Citizens for a DPW that a DPW would save $200,000 to $300,000.
"What you are looking to do it will take seven to nine years to save $100,000," DiBartolo said. "You're throwing out these numbers to be flashy. You have all these thoughts but nothing is put together, not even close."
Grace said there are many contractual and legal issues to consider before even entertaining such a major change.
"I'm not pro or con at this point. You need a work flow sheet that is specific for the Town of Yorktown," Grace said. "This idea has been kicked around for a lot of years but a lot of things have changed. I don't want this to be a political decision. I want it to be the best decision for the town."
The board advised Jane Daniels, a spokesperson for Yorktown Citizens for a DPW, to submit a detailed proposal for it to review. Daniels said the group just wants to "let the people decide."
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