continued Councilman Bill Reinhardt said the change is also an opportunity to find further efficiencies within the town’s government, such as saving on overtime, energy and fleet consolidation.
Councilman Kyle Kotary said although he did not support similar proposals in the past and favors giving residents a choice through public elections, he wanted to “reserve the right to change his mind on the issue.” He wanted to further investigate the potential savings and hear more from the public.
“I hope everyone in the audience and around town will take this opportunity seriously and think about the best way for the town to provide services in the future, not just looking back. I think that’s important,” he said. “It worked well in the past, but I think we need to ask ourselves, will the current structure work for us in the future financially?”
Some residents at the meeting were skeptical since the issue has already been discussed so many times in the past. In 2011, a set of government reform proposals that included making the positions of highway superintendent, town clerk and receiver of taxes appointed rather than elected failed to gain traction with the public. Clarkson was a key member of the committee that drafted the recommendations.
Resident Robert Jasinski said although money could be saved, he was doubtful of how much, and said the change would give even more power to future Town Board members.
Bethlehem Republican Committee Chairman Fred DiMaggio said it is up to the Board to prove to voters savings and efficiencies will outweigh the loss of their right to choose who serves the town.
“It’s important to understand the magnitude of the proposed change,” he said. “The combined budgets of the Highway Department and the Department of Public Works account for over 50 percent of the town’s 2013 budget of $37.9 million and approximately half of the town’s workforce of 120 employees. This is no small matter.”