By Jann Wiswall
Village of Ellicottville Mayor John Burrell reported that the town and village are working with the state to apply for a grant to study the feasibility of consolidating the town and village water and sewer districts and to create a Director of Public Works (DPW) position to manage the newly-formed department.
The consolidation idea is being investigated as a way to save money in the short- and long-term and to develop a transition plan for the coming retirement of Town Engineer Mark Alianello.
The state grant would fund the research, asset inventory, data collection and legal costs necessary to develop a plausible plan.
Burrell noted that Town Supervisor Matt McAndrew and the town board do not want to hire a new town engineer until a thorough analysis of options is concluded and the feasibility of creating a DPW director position is considered. If created, a DPW director would oversee the town’s highway department and the village’s DPW, as well as the joint water and sewer district.
In new business, Burrell asked the board for its authorization to prepare a proposal that will address another key employee retirement.
Town and Village Building Inspector/Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) Tom Abriatis has announced his intention to retire from the Village position in March and his Town position by September. Burrell said Abriatis will be available to help train a new building inspector/CEO before his departure.
An individual whom Burrell characterized as “qualified” came to Burrell and expressed an interest in the position, which has not been advertised.
Burrell’s proposal to the board is to offer that individual a full-time position as a DPW laborer, paid for by both the town and the village, to start in January. That person would work directly with Abriatis five hours per day to learn the job, would attend multiple required training sessions for building inspectors/CEOs during that period and would attend monthly village and town planning board, zoning board and board of trustees meetings. Any additional time would be filled with DPW tasks.
State mandated, multi-day trainings are rigorous; attendees must pass end-of-training session exams. In addition, all applicants for the position would have to take the civil service exam and score among the top three of all applicants.
Burrell’s proposal carries no guarantee for the individual if hired initially as a DPW laborer. All municipal employees are under a six-month probationary period, during which they can be terminated. It would be the candidate’s responsibility to pass all required exams in order to be offered the Building Inspector/CEO position, so “there is some risk” for the individual, Burrell pointed out.
The board authorized Burrell to proceed with the proposal, but the authorization was not unanimous. One board member abstained after arguing that the DPW position should be advertised to allow all interested individuals an equal opportunity to apply.
Citing the long lead time needed to train and certify a new building inspector/CEO, and the qualifications of the particular applicant who likely meets the job requirements of a CEO (which were not described), the rest of the board felt it made sense to put this individual, if he accepts, on the DPW payroll while Abriatis is available to train him.
While the board chose not to advertise the DPW position, interested individuals are encouraged to contact the mayor.
Burrell said the building inspector/CEO position will be advertised later next year, before any offer for that job is made.
Burrell also reported that National Grid has reimbursed the Village for an old credit balance of $28,280 that Burrell discovered last month. And, the village received a bi-annual mortgage tax check of $4,611 from the county, a 5.4 percent increase over last year.
Burrell thanked the Village Department of Public Works for its snow removal efforts during the lake effect snow event last week. “That was the most snow we’ve had dumped on us at one time in many years,” Burrell said.
DPW Chief Harold Morton reported that people seem generally pleased with the new holiday lighting in the village. He mentioned that there were not enough lights to complete a portion of Washington Street. Additional lights will be purchased and installed next year.
Burrell reported that the Village has negotiated a settlement with engineering firm Nussbaumer & Clarke on final payment for the company’s work related to the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). The board also approved payment of several invoices from the general and electrical contractors for their work.
N&C representative Nick Dobmeier, who was sitting in for village engineer and N&C president Mike Smith, reported that the company had successfully resolved a noise complaint from residents on Donlen Drive related to the WWTP. The complaint led to the discovery of some faulty equipment that is being addressed by the electrical contractor. Letters of thanks from the residents were sent to the board.
Village Clerk Mary Klahn reported that quarterly water and sewer bills are due to be mailed the week of Dec. 19 and will be the first set of bills generated by a new software system installed earlier this year.
The board asked that residents, especially part-time residents, be reminded that plumbing problems that result in above-average water and sewer usage bills are the responsibility of the owner of the property. State law does not allow municipalities to provide relief from bills that are high due to an accident, broken pipe or faulty equipment.
The board also asks residents to remember that they must clean any snow off of village sidewalks after plowing or shoveling. Plow companies also must abide by this rule.
And, the board noted, driveway plow contractors must obtain annual operator permits from the village. Permits are free, but are required to ensure the companies know the rules.
The next meeting of the village board is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 9 at 6 p.m. in the village/town hall.