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Vote set on choosing highway chief

Voters in the Town of Franklinville will decide Tuesday whether they want to continue electing their highway superintendent or let the Town Board appoint someone to the post.

The proposition will be listed second on the town's ballot, and voter approval will authorize the Town Board to draft a local law creating a civil service position that will be filled by the councilmen.

Franklinville Highway Superintendent William H. Weller Sr. has held the job since 1978 and said he has beaten back challenges from opponents in almost every election since then. He oversees the maintenance of 42 miles of town roads and supervises four workers, commanding a budget of $517,006.50 in 2008. Weller's salary is $42,880, not including benefits.

Weller's current term expires at the end of 2011, and he said he will be ready to retire in 2010, when he turns 62, if he can find an affordable health care plan. The local law, if approved, would go into effect at the end of his four-year term or when he retires, according to a letter the Town Board sent out to voters.

In 2007, Weller announced he would not run for another term and suggested the Town Board change the position to an appointed one, which would be part of a future town/village consolidation to cut down on taxpayer costs.

He said Village Public Works Superintendent Ron E. Trzepacz would be well-qualified to do the administrative portion of the town highway job, while the village's wastewater treatment plant and water supply system might continue unchanged.

The village and town already cooperate in the use of the town-owned fuel depot and salt storage shed. While the terms of a possible consolidation are not clear and that issue is not yet on the ballot, Weller said he hopes it would at least involve shared personnel, equipment and administration of roads and streets.

According to Town Supervisor David R. Dickinson, the proposal has the support of all the Town Board members and would have been on the ballot in 2007, but there were problems meeting a filing deadline.

He said it will become the first appointed highway superintendent in the county if it is accepted. Both Dickinson and Weller admit there is opposition, but they're quick with assurances that the board must appoint someone experienced who could meet civil service eligibility criteria.

A group calling itself the Concerned Citizens has circulated fliers voicing objections to the appointment because voter approval would deprive the town's roughly 5,000 voters of the ability to choose a public official.

Also on the ballot is a contest for Town Justice. Democrat Ronne A. Herman and Wayne L. Holden, with Republican and Independence endorsements, are vying for a single seat.

In another matter, the question of filling a vacancy on the Town Board won't be decided by voters Tuesday but will have to be answered soon by the board due to the resignation of Councilman Al Gerstung, effective Nov. 30.

Gerstung recently announced he will be leaving to spend the winter in Texas and will give up the post. Dickinson said the Town Board hopes to find a town resident willing to serve and to appoint the person in December or January to fill out Gerstung's term.

Anyone interested in being considered should contact the town clerk.

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