Village OKs 1 Highway Dept.; town next?


By Patsy Nicosia

The Village of Cobleskill has OK’ed a long-in-the-works plan to consolidate its Highway Department with the town’s.
Now, it’s up to the town.
The consolidation would create a single Highway Department run by the town with all village employees becoming town employees.
The highway superintendent would remain an appointed position and his pay would be adjusted to reflect the lost pay from the village.
The village will own its streets and sidewalks, but the town would maintain, plow, and repair them through an inter-municipal agreement.
All village Highway Department’s assets would be transferred to the town for $1, but capital improvements to village streets and sidewalks would remain the village’s responsibility.
Village residents would see no change in services and would in fact, see a drop in taxes, in part because they’ve been paying for Highway Department services through both their village and town taxes.
Additionally, the consolidation would streamline the administrative and billing process and remove a layer of government.
A Highway Committee of Councilmen Sherwood Veith and Ken Hotopp from the town and Trustees Mark Galasso and Sandy MacKay from the village has been meeting on the move since October 2004.
All agreed the plan they came up with isn’t perfect and said the Highway Committee will need to continue to meet on at least a quarterly basis.
Before approving its end of the consolidation, Mayor Mike Sellers and trustees made a few changes to better reflect work now being done mostly gratis by its Highway Department for other departments, like police, water, and sewer.
All vehicle maintenance like oil changes will be charged back to the village at two times the actual hourly rate.
Department heads can “shop around” for a better deal with private businesses.
Excavation and backhoe work—something the water and sewer departments regularly need—will be billed back at three times the actual hourly rate plus materials.
They’re also free to shop around.
In order for the consolidation to take place by its target date of January 1, the town needs to approve the plan at its meeting September 14.
“We understand it’s an easier decision for the village,” Mr. Veith said. “We felt we needed to take a little more time so our attorney could look at it.
“We’re taking on a half-million dollar budget and five employees…We need to dot our i’s and cross our t’s and make sure it’s all legal.”
With both municipalities beginning work on their 2010 budgets, Mr. Veith said the 14th will be “go-no go time” for the town; if the consolidation isn’t approved then, he said, it will likely be another year.
“From the committee’s standpoint, we feel we’ve tied up the loose ends,” he said.