Canton town board puts hold on law to change highway super elected position to appointed job
Thursday, September 13, 2018 - 12:27 am

By ADAM ATKINSON

CANTON — The town board has tabled further consideration of a local law to change the highway superintendent position from an elected post to an appointed one.

The board opted to hold off any further action on the law as their deadline to hold a public hearing and then approve the law to be allowed on the fall General Election ballot was Sept. 5, not Sept. 20 as they had initially thought.

Town Attorney Eric Gustafson informed the board of the deadline snafu Wednesday, Sept. 12 at the regular town board meeting. The attorney said that the town could still get the law on the fall ballot through other more complex municipal legal processes, but he advised they hold off further action and restart the process next year.

The board has been considering putting the issue before the voters to change the superintendent’s office to a hired position with the town to help allow multi-year planning, and to ensure the qualifications of future superintendents who may serve the town.

The local law would have called on the town electorate to make the choice Nov. 6. If approved, the change to an appointed job would have been implemented following the conclusion of Superintendent Terry Billings current term about 3 and half years from now.

Billings has served as highway superintendent for about 25 years.

Several members of the public spoke before the meeting during a previously scheduled public hearing on the law. The hearing was planned before the missed Sept. 5 deadline was discovered.

Comments ran mostly in support of keeping the position an elected one, with praise of current Supervisor Terry Billings work over the years.

“The part of it that I’m particularly concerned about is more of a… I guess a representational issue,” said John Danis of Rensselaer Falls.

Danis said that road maintenance is probably one of the most important issues to town residents living in the “hinterlands” and the smaller villages and hamlets. Danis said he believed that having an elected official in the office of highway superintendent has made that office very responsive to those smaller communities. “We have been well served for years and years and years,” Danis said, crediting Billings. “I think part of that was because of that was because it was an electoral process.”

Danis urged the board to consider that changing the position to an appointed or hired position is going to affect various populations in the town differently.

Klaus Proemm, a Canton village trustee, spoke as a member of the public in support of the idea of changing the position to an appointed one.

“I’m looking at more of the practical side of this and I think it would make sense to have the town and village (roads) superintendent picked the same way for future collaboration which I’m expecting there will be more of,” Proemm said. “It would be preferable to have both positions be appointed rather than have one be elected and one be appointed. I think it would just make sense for looking down the road . . . We will be working together more and more. I think its just a common sense thing.”

“The issue has been brought forward and I’m glad to see that it go to the voters,” said Morley-Potsdam Road resident Victor Rycroft. “I would not be in favor of eliminating the position as an elected one. We take too much away from our electorate and its one of the last vestiges they have along with voting on the school budgets.”

“I would like to see (the position) remain elected at this time,” Town Historian Linda Casserly said. “Because, appointed, the (town) boards change often and if I was applying for a job as the town highway superintendent, I wouldn’t want it because the board changes, they change their minds.”