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Highway superintendent's salary cut by $20,000

David Winter took on the incumbent highway superintendent in North Collins on Election Day and won.

But soon after Winter's victory, the Town Board -- which appointed one of its former members to the superintendent's post a year earlier -- had its say. The board cut the highway superintendent's salary by $20,000 and removed $40,000 from the Highway Department budget.

Winter's supporters say both moves are a way of trying to punish him for running against the former board member-turned-highway superintendent, Robert Martin Jr.

"He won the election; now they're like spoiled kids that didn't get their way," said resident Jeffrey T. Krauss, an insurance agent.

"Everybody that knows about it is [ticked] off about it," said Charles Alessi, a former member of the town Planning Board. "This is a bunch of BS."

Winter, a novice to politics but well-known in North Collins for the railroad salvage operation he runs, said he, too, feels that he has been treated unfairly by the board and Supervisor Thomas R. O'Boyle.

"It's very disappointing," said Winter, who defeated Martin 673-483, according to preliminary results from the Erie County Board of Elections.

In its proposed budget for next year, printed before the November election, the town listed the highway superintendent's position as paying $44,912.

But at a budget hearing after the election, pay for the job was knocked down to $24,912.

And about $40,000 was removed from the highway budget.

O'Boyle denied the Town Board's decisions were done for political reasons.

"The election had nothing to do with it," he said. "We set his salary at a reasonable rate."

O'Boyle said the $44,912 salary in the budget was the salary that the superintendent before Martin, Peter J. Loretto Jr., received after 33 years with the town. Martin, appointed at the start of the year after Loretto retired, received $38,000 last year.

"It's my job as budget director to set the salaries," O'Boyle said. "You adjust the salary per the employee."

O'Boyle said Loretto and Martin "chose" to be "working" highway superintendents who also drove town plows, in addition to their administrative duties, and therefore deserved higher pay.

The Town Board didn't see Winter in that role, said O'Boyle, who never directly answered whether Winter was given that choice.

O'Boyle said he has not spoken with Winter since the election, despite the fact that consultations between town supervisors and highway superintendents are routine in most towns, especially as the snowplowing season nears.

O'Boyle also disputed that $40,000 was cut from the Highway Department budget, saying it was transferred to a contingency fund. The transfer was made, he said, because the Town Board believed the budget submitted by Martin was over-funded by $40,000.

Winter said that while the salary cut was a hardship for him, he was nonetheless committed to doing the job. "I've made the commitment to the voters and I'm in this for the long haul," he said. "I'm sure after I prove my ability, compensation will be forthcoming."

His immediate concern, he said, is his belief the town doesn't have enough salt stockpiled.

"I just hope the board gives me the resources I need to do the job for the safety and welfare of the community," he said.

e-mail: jbonfatti@buffnews.com

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