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Aug 13, 2019 2:32 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Trustees Continue To Face Roadblocks From The Town When Hiring Full Time Employees

Aug 13, 2019 4:20 PM

In an effort to continue maintaining Southampton Town Trustee-owned roadways, the Trustees have looked into hiring an additional full-time maintenance crew member, but because of the prohibitive cost, the possibility of doing so looks doubtful.

The issue is a sore spot for the Trustees, who have unsuccessfully fought for years for more control of their finances, rather than having financial decisions made by the Town Board and other town officials.

Earlier this year, the Trustees pushed to obtain their own tax line, which would allow them to collect taxes and manage their finances — and set a tax rate every year.

Getting their own tax line required legislation at the state level, which State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. had introduced. But after the situation became a game of political football between the Trustees and Town Board, Mr. Thiele pulled the legislation.

“I would like for them to be an independent body, where they have their own tax line and … can talk with the taxpayers and say, this is what we’re doing with your taxpayer dollars,” Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said. “If I can de-fund you, you’re not independent.”

As it stands currently, the ultimate decision to hire someone falls on the town, as all employees who work for the Trustees — whether pushing paperwork, issuing permits in the office at Town Hall, or out in the field plowing roads and maintaining facilities — are town employees.

A full-time worker, according to Trustee President Ed Warner Jr., could cost the town upward of $91,000, which includes benefits, in comparison to a part-time employee, who does not get the $40,000 to $50,000 benefit package and works less than 40 hours per week.

Mr. Schneiderman said if a person makes $50,000, they would probably receive $30,000 in benefits or more. Family health insurance alone costs the town approximately $28,000 per year.

“Technically, the Trustees don’t pay anybody,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “The way it is now, they’re really like a department of the town.”

Whenever the Trustees need more money, whether it is to hire someone or to bond for a project, Mr. Schneiderman said he normally requires they have a conversation with him and the town comptroller to figure out what the Trustee revenues are.

He said his first question is always how is it going to be paid for.

The need for a new maintenance crew worker stems from a series of roadways maintained by the Trustees that were, at one time, roads that led to the water, allowing town residents access for boating, fishing and shellfishing. These days, the roads are more like private driveways, according to Mr. Schneiderman.

“I’ve spoken to them about some of the Trustee roads that they maintain, and they are just basically connector streets,” he said. “Why are they repairing these roads? I could see if it’s a road that goes to the water — then it’s an access road.

“These are roads to private homes. Why should everyone be paying for that?” Mr. Schneiderman asked.

Until the Trustees can answer that question, or come up with a solution to better control their finances, Mr. Schneiderman said he will offer part-time staffing, at $20,000 to $30,000 per year.

Mr. Warner, who would prefer to hire the full-time worker, said the downside to hiring part-time employees is that it can take a bit of time to train them, and once trained, they typically leave six to 12 months later for full-time positions somewhere else.

Town Trustee Scott Horowitz said on Tuesday that the roads take a great deal of effort from the maintenance team. He also said maintaining the roads is costly when the Trustees need the proper equipment and supplies to do so.

The Trustees are currently looking into a solution that could offer the proper plowing and maintenance of the roads for a small fee or tax, paid by the homeowners on the roads.

What is out of the question, he said, is turning the roads over to the town, because town officials are not interested in taking them over.

Mr. Schneiderman confirmed that the town was not interested in taking over ownership and management of the roads.

He suggested the Trustees charge a small fee to the homeowners if they want the roads maintained.

“They have to figure out how many private homes are on these roads and what’s a fair contribution,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “It’s something they have to sort out. It’s not up to me. They have to figure out how to spend their money.

“If they’re spending a lot of money maintaining private roads for private estates, it’s something they have to think about,” he added. “What’s the public interest here? I don’t see it. It’s private interest. These are questions the Trustees have to wrestle with.”

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which roads are they referring to here?
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Aug 16, 19 10:14 AM
1 member liked this comment
"Family health insurance alone costs the town approximately $28,000 per year."

SUNY Southampton Hospital, a healthcare system that has 80% or.more of.its expenses covered.by Medicare and Medicaid, charges the local government $28,000/year for a single worker to receive healthcare.

It's time for Bernie to become President and put an end to the larceny of healthcare insurance companies that are not fettered by any reasonable constraints or greedy local hospital executives who make ...more
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Aug 16, 19 11:04 AM
What happened with the rose hill rd giveaway?
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Aug 16, 19 1:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
That's the question that each sitting Trustee will have to answer this NOVEMBER!!
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Aug 17, 19 8:16 AM
Very frustrating if you live on one of these roads.... The repairs that are done by the trustees are completely inadequate and very temporary. Filling in potholes that literally come right back in just a couple weeks. Drainage is horrible, tree pruning for utility lines doesnt seem to exist, did I mention potholes? Some of these roads have turned into well used access or cut through roads used by the general public. A lot of these roads also give the general public access to preserves, water and ...more
By SHD management (13), on Aug 17, 19 10:50 AM
Maintaining private roads? What next from this gang... Do not give them the power of the purse, continue with Town Board oversight to keep them in check. State audit now!

By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Aug 17, 19 10:56 AM
By themarlinspike (542), Northern Hemisphere on Aug 18, 19 9:20 AM
Department of Public Works...I like that. No more elected highway department head and maintenance of all roads and types could be done by them. "Trustees"would focus on their core functions.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Aug 18, 19 10:52 AM
I think the town had a department of public works. It morphed to become the department of municipal works. Turned out to be a disappointing failure. Re-establish the public works department with new appointed leadership.
By A Great American (103), East Quogue on Aug 18, 19 11:43 PM
Why do the trustees loose some many workers??? To much political bs coming out of that office...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Aug 18, 19 3:54 PM
By Resident tax (186), Hampton bays ny on Aug 19, 19 6:47 PM