YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Members of Yorktown Citizens for a DPW said eliminating the highway superintendent as an elected position would not only save the town $250,000 but also give the Town Board more authority over roadwork and engineering decisions.
The current highway superintendent maintained the group's figures were skewed, while Supervisor Michael Grace said he didn't need complete control over the highway department and questioned tampering with the town's charter.
A spirited work session that turned into a quasi-public hearing Wednesday night at Yorktown Town Hall featured both sides of the controversial debate arguing their points but reaching no conclusion.
"Having the highway superintendent under my thumb is not particularly attractive to me," Grace said. "The criticism that I have no control over the highway superintendent and can't tell him what to do is a complete misconception."
Aaron Bock, a former town supervisor who noted 20 years ago the Town Board spent $40,000 for a study on a DPW, spoke on behalf of Yorktown Citizens for a DPW and said an elected, independent highway superintendent handcuffs the board's decision-making.
"We're not talking about personalities. We're talking about the organizational structure of the town," Bock said. "I have no personal criticism with any individuals. We believe there is a newer and better way to structure town government."
Group members said they spoke to more than 30 municipalities in 12 counties as part of their research. One municipality, neighboring Cortlandt, eliminated the highway superintendent as an elected position in 1999, but some speakers said it shows in the quality of their roads.
"The DPWs in Cortlandt and Peekskill are no match for the highway department in Yorktown and I think that's because of no accountability," said Anthony Bazzo, a taxi company owner who supports Yorktown residents voting for the highway head. "I think there is a vendetta going on here that has been going on for a long time."
Former Council member Tony Grasso echoed Bazzo's sentiments about Yorktown Citizens for a DPW targeting Highway Superintendent Eric DiBartolo, and DiBartolo agreed.
"Contrary to what people want to say, it's personal and that's okay," said DiBartolo, who has held his post since 1996 and has announced he will not be seeking reelection next year. "I think for the last 16 years people are pretty happy. When you elect someone to this job you hold their feet to the fire and nobody's feet have been held more to the fire over the last four years than mine."
Yorktown Citizens for a DPW has been pushing the Town Board to schedule a public hearing on their proposal in August to allow time for a referendum to be held in November but the board declined to take such action Wednesday night.
"This is a phenomenal opportunity for 18,000 residents to make an informed decision," said former Supervisor Susan Siegel, a member of the committee. "Eliminating the highway superintendent is the means to getting an effective DPW."