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Hamburg highway superintendent has second thoughts on duties

Hamburg's highway superintendent wants to quit leading the Buildings and Grounds Department, and the town is investigating how that might happen.

The duties of highway superintendents are laid down in state law, and include taking care of highways and bridges. They are not required to operate another department, but many superintendents have taken on additional work, including several in the Buffalo area.

And Highway Superintendent Ted Casey, who was elected in November, said he is spending more time than he anticipated on the Buildings and Grounds department.

"My first obligation is running the Highway Department," he said.

The two operations were separate departments in Hamburg until Jan. 1, 1997. That's when the head of Buildings and Grounds, Tom Gilmartin, who made $57,000, retired. James Connolly was the newly appointed highway superintendent, and the Buildings and Grounds department started reporting to Connolly.

"The consolidation of these two departments will result in significant monetary savings while achieving a more efficient organizational structure that should result in improved service levels to residents," according to the resolution passed unanimously the month before.

It was not a merger, but a reorganization, with the two departments reporting to the same person. The Buildings and Grounds post carries a $2,500 stipend, and the highway superintendent position pays $81,266.

Some highway superintendents in other Erie County towns have a variety of duties, from maintaining parks to refuse and rodent control in Amherst to parks and composting in Orchard Park to forestry, garbage and recycling in Tonawanda. Amherst Highway Superintendent Patrick Lucey said there used to be a $13,000 stipend for the refuse portion of the job, but the stipend was rolled into the salary. Lancaster has a separate three-page agreement with Daniel J. Amatura to oversee the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department.

Hamburg Town Attorney Steven J. Walters said if Casey does not want to oversee Buildings and Grounds, that's his prerogative.

"As highway superintendent, Mr. Casey is not obligated to accept work outside of his statutory duties as highway superintendent," Walters told the Town Board last week.

Town officials will be looking into whether some of the duties of the parks could be taken over by the Recreation, Youth and Senior Services Department.

Supervisor James M. Shaw and another Town Board member plan to meet with Casey and Martin Denecke, director of Recreation, Youth and Senior Services. He said it might make sense since many of the services rendered at parks and playgrounds are administered by recreation employees.

"I'm not sure you would want to separate all of Buildings and Grounds from Highway Department management," Shaw said.

Casey told the Town Board he will continue managing Buildings and Grounds until the board decides what to do.

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