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Panel creates sewer district chief's post

It looks like the six town supervisors who govern the Niagara County Sewer District will be allowed to fill the new post of administrative director without having to go through civil service hiring procedures.

The County Legislature's Administration Committee Tuesday approved the creation of the job, which is to pay somewhere between $49,500 and $62,000 a year.

The only vote against the proposal, which requires a public hearing and approval of the full Legislature before it takes effect, came from Legislator Gerald K. Farnham, the committee chairman.

Cambria Supervisor Wright H. Ellis, the chairman of the Sewer District board, said the notion that a fellow supervisor is to be given the job is "rumor."

But when Farnham suggested that he'd support the creation of the new job if it were classified under civil service instead of a simple appointment by the district board, Ellis said no.
"If you would upgrade it to classified, you lose a little flexibility as to who you can put in there," Ellis said.
Farnham, R-Lockport, said he knew Ellis had the votes, but he argued, "I don't see the need for the position. The district has done so well. It's not at full capacity. You have [contracted] professional services."
Since its founding 30 years ago, the district's daily operations have been run by Frank Nerone, who retired almost three years ago as chief operator. Since taking a state early retirement incentive, Nerone has been doing his old job on a series of six-month consulting contracts.
Ellis said the district's founders intended to have an administrative director and a chief plant operator, as the Water District does.

However, Nerone worked out so well they never bothered filling the director post, which was eventually abolished.
Nerone, who is both a professional engineer and a licensed sewer plant operator, said his next contract expires Oct. 1. "Assuming we get a nice administrative director, I would probably leave [then]," he said.
Ellis said the chief operator post was officially abolished, so the Legislature would have to recreate that so it could be filled after the administrative director is chosen.
Ellis said it would probably be easy to find a chief operator as long as the job were divorced from administrative duties. He said that job would be subject to civil service hiring rules.
The Sewer District comprises the towns of Wheatfield, Niagara, Pendleton, Cambria, Lewiston and Lockport, although only the first three have sewers throughout their entire territory. The district's operations also cover parts of the latter three towns.
The Water District covers all 12 towns, and its administrative director has traditionally come from the ranks of the town supervisors. The post is currently held by former Somerset supervisor Herbert A. Downs.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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