AREA NEWSThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Department of Public Works Plan Debated in Yorktown

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Supervisor Michael Grace
Supervisor Michael Grace

Tension between the Yorktown Town Board and the citizens’ committee pushing for a centralized Department of Public Works escalated at the town’s regular board meeting Tuesday.

During the board’s public comment session, Renee Fogarty, the management professional who’s acted as a de facto spokeswoman for the DPW committee, chastised the board for not acting on her committee’s request to schedule an impromptu work session on the topic.

The board had previously chided the committee for not providing concrete figures on planned savings, but Fogarty said the committee had circulated an email to the board advertising immediate savings of about $250,000 with additional future savings of about $70,000.

She said the committee wasn’t looking to move excessively fast in getting the DPW question on the ballot as a voter referendum. Instead, there’s a hard-and-fast September 1 deadline to introduce ballot propositions that she wants to ensure the committee doesn’t miss.

“Nothing is being rushed,” she said. “The only decision that needs to be made now is getting the Yorktown DPW question on the November ballot.”

She said the committee would have to wait an additional four years to introduce the measure if the September 1 deadline is not met.

“Sometimes delay can be costly,” she said. “That’s four years at $250,000. That’s a million dollars lost.”

But Yorktown Town Supervisor Michael Grace said the committee’s financial tally is “flawed” and doesn’t represent the cuts and pay freezes many town departments are already operating under.

“Our town workforce is down about 10 percent just through attrition. There isn’t a lot of room for anyone to do other tasks other than the tasks they are doing,” he said. “What I don’t think is useful for the conversation is to circulate numbers that are not based on fact.”

And current Town Highway Superintendent Eric DiBartolo, whose elected job would be among those cut or replaced by an appointed highway head under any DPW restructuring plan, had stronger words.

“Those numbers are not even close to being correct,” he said.

Grace said he plans to work with the DPW committee to set a meeting “sometime at the end of July” that is “only focused” on the potential restructuring.

Fogarty said she’s pushing for a public hearing on the topic to occur on August 7, so that the issue could meet the September 1 ballot referendum deadline.

Jane Daniels, the research librarian who has been pushing for the DPW with others like Fogarty and former Yorktown Town Supervisors Susan Siegel and Aaron Bock, said it’s important that the town board members put their personal feelings aside.

Yorktown voters should be able to decide on the DPW issue, she said — they shouldn’t have that opportunity taken away by a town board unwilling to set a public hearing.

“The issue is one of tradeoffs. Is this board willing to throw away $250,000 of potential savings to protects the jobs that are no longer needed?” she said. “The issue for the town board members is to decide not whether you’re personally in favor or opposed, the issue is whether you give the voters the opportunity to vote … that’s what we mean by letting the people decide.”

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