Amherst Supervisor Satish Mohan has sought to micromanage many town departments. This flawed strategy has led to problems that will negatively impact local residents.
For example, soon after he was elected, Mohan said he would negotiate all new contracts. Consequently, the Amherst Highway Employees' Association initiated several meetings with him to discuss a new agreement and issues that could both improve town services and save money.
Six months later, due to Mohan's unresponsiveness, I filed an improper practice charge with the New York State Public Employment Relations Board. In turn, Mohan agreed to meet, but subsequently canceled several meetings.
Now, well after a year of little progress, Mohan has bowed out of the process saying the newly appointed deputy supervisor will handle negotiations. Although good news, it comes late and puts us back at square one, again.
Another problem is Mohan's attempt to micromanage the Amherst Highway Department. We all agree that town spending should be reduced. But this should be carried out in a responsible manner that does not decrease the quality of life, slash essential services or jeopardize safety.
Without visiting the department, grasping its responsibilities or understanding the impact on town residents, Mohan cut $350,000 for salt required to keep Amherst roads safe in winter. Plus, he chopped another $87,200 for diesel fuel to maintain snowplow operations. In addition, he even cut $100,000 for the repair of storm receivers that prevent roads from flooding and sewers from caving in -- leaving the 2007 budget for this at zero.
Mohan also cut the road-striping budget from $120,000 to zero. This New York State mandate is essential for automobile drivers to discern road positioning. Additionally, he cut $40,000 for mosquito control needed to reduce infestation and protect residents against outbreaks of the West Nile Virus -- even though 26 pools of water in Amherst tested positive for the virus last year.
Over the years, our department's responsibilities have increased with the addition of new roads, parks and bike paths. Concurrently, we have improved efficiencies while attempting to provide the highest quality services at the lowest cost. And this has been achieved with an increase of only five workers since 1979, as well as annual budget increases of less than 2 percent since 1998 covering payroll, equipment, materials, supplies and contracted professional services.
The Highway Department is here to effectively serve Amherst residents. But our ability to do so has become constrained by a town supervisor who is driving from the back seat, not seeing how his irresponsible micromanagement strategy may impact town safety.
Christopher O'Neill is president of the Amherst Highway Employees' Association.