Behind the signs

Support lines up behind two groups fighting and supporting April 30 vote

Keep the Vote Bethlehem and Modernize and Economize lawn signs for the Highway special referendum vote on April 30.

Keep the Vote Bethlehem and Modernize and Economize lawn signs for the Highway special referendum vote on April 30. Photo by Marcy Velte.

— “I don’t care how anyone views this. I would be dead set against this proposition under any circumstance,” Clyne said. “Clarkson is asking people to give up a fundamental right under highly speculative and circumstantial instances. It’s not right.”

The proposal to abolish the highway superintendent position was first put forward by Clarkson during this year’s State of the Town address, shortly after Highway Superintendent Gregg Sagendorph announced plans to retire after holding the position for 22 years. If the referendum passes on April 30, a civil servant would then be hired to help manage the highway department under the public works umbrella.

Citizen advisory committees have studied the idea since 2006. The town’s Governance Committee found 59 other towns in New York, mostly larger suburbs, no longer elect their highway superintendents. Clarkson said the town could conservatively save between $180,000 to $375,000 annually through the consolidation of departments.

“The management and savings advantages for the town are very important,” said Clarkson. “I obviously support this measure, but state law leaves the choice to the voters and I’m anxious at long last to give them the say.”

Clarkson’s “Modernize and Economize” campaign is backed by officials from across the aisle at the town level, including former Supervisors Sam Messina, an Independent, and Ken Ringler, a Republican, and most of the Town Board Democrats and Independents. The modernize effort has a Facebook page, and the lawn signs that have popped up across town were purchased by Clarkson himself.

The effort is also supported by the Albany County League of Voters. League members have been working as volunteers to support the referendum and encourage residents to vote.

Some have criticized the League’s involvement. Cunningham said he feels by supporting the measure, the League is departing from its stated mission by “promoting partisan and misleading information in support of the proposed law.”

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