Amherst Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein offered a generally optimistic outlook for the town in his recent State of the Town address before the Amherst Chamber of Commerce – with a few challenges coming down the pike.
The start of Weinstein’s seventh year in office follows a six-year stretch in which Republicans controlled the Town Board that, he said, resulted in significant cost savings and annual tax decreases for property owners in the town. The new makeup of the board, following last November’s general election, will be immediately felt throughout the town, he warned.
“The last election flipped the Town Board 3-2 Democratic with the election of Deborah Bucki and Francina Spoth,” the Republican supervisor said.
“The new majority has already replaced the town attorney, three deputies and the council member clerk with their own choices and are considering replacing the comptroller,” Weinstein lamented, adding that he had grown reliant on those previous occupants of those positions.
Over the last five years, Weinstein said, the town has realized hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings by merging the duties of the town building commissioner and the town engineer. Like his immediate predecessor, Thomas C. Ketchum, Building Commissioner Brian P. Andrzejewski is handling both.
“I think a new town engineer would cost upwards of $110,000 to $120,000 a year (plus benefits),” Weinstein said. “Instead, we’re going to give him a stipend.”
Since taking office in 2011, Weinstein has also served as the town’s purchasing director, with no compensation, saving the town about $600,000. This year, for the first time, he included more than $100,000 in salary and benefits in this year’s budget to fill that vacant position.
“It’s been a lot of extra work, and it has been suggested to me that we bring in someone new and we train them,” Weinstein said.
Weinstein said that a voluntary separation incentive negotiated with the Civil Service Employees Association and the Amherst Highway Employees Association resulted in early retirement for 22 town employees who will be replaced by new, less expensive workers.
“They contribute more for their health insurance,” Weinstein said of the new hires. “They get six fewer days, vacation days. The difference is huge financially.”
Challenges that the supervisor foresees include a couple of contracts that expire at the end of this year, including renegotiation of the town’s five-year trash pickup agreement with Modern Disposal. The company has declined to extend the contract because of a steep drop in the recyclables market.
“They’re paying us $28 a ton, and they’re now telling us the recyclables market is now $6 a ton, and we do 10,000 tons of recyclables a year now,” Weinstein said.
“That would be a significant change in the contract, which we can’t do without rebidding it.”