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New year brings changes, charges in Town of Hamburg

Ringing in the New Year in the Town of Hamburg this week meant taking duties away from the highway superintendent and appointing a new planner who one Town Board member said made "unsavory" statements.

Highway Superintendent Ted Casey will no longer supervise the Buildings and Grounds Department, and Planning Board Chairman Dan O'Connell is off the board in favor of a three-month member of the Conservation Advisory Board, after the Town Board held its reorganization meeting Monday night.

The board appointed Kaitlyn McCormick to a seven-year term on the Planning Board. She has a master's degree in business as well as environmental science and policy and is a senior project manager for TRC, an engineering, consulting and construction planning firm in Lancaster. O'Connell, a former Hamburg Village trustee and deputy mayor who also served two years on the village Planning Board, was looking to be appointed to a second seven-year term on the town Planning Board, where he has served as chairman for five years.

"I thought she was terrific," Supervisor James M. Shaw said. "I really respect what Dan O'Connell has done," Shaw noted, then added that he was "terribly impressed" with McCormick, who he said has a "killer resume."

Two others agreed, and she was appointed on a 3-2 vote, with board members Michael Petrie and Beth Farrell voting for O'Connell.

Farrell said a telephone conversation with McCormick recently about her interest in the Planning Board turned "unsavory" and "somewhat intimidating."  She said McCormick said what would happen if Farrell voted for her and what would happen if she did not. Farrell declined to be more specific.

"She stated very plainly what would be in it for me if I voted for her. I find that to be somewhat unsavory," Farrell said. "I take my position as an elected official very seriously."

Town GOP Chairman Mark Cuda also charged that Councilman Michael Mosey voted against O'Connell because O'Connell and Cuda would not publicly endorse him for re-election. O'Connell heads up the Republican screening committee for candidates, which has not started interviewing prospective candidates, Cuda said. Mosey could not be reached to comment.

"What you folks just did was break a well-oiled machine," Planning Board member August Geraci told the board after its vote.

The board also voted by the same 3-2 margin to relieve Casey from his duties as head of the Buildings and Grounds Department and appoint Pat Ryan as director of the department. Ryan had been deputy director under Casey. The supervisor had suggested last year that someone else head up the department, after he said Casey had been lobbying for a larger stipend for the job.

Casey, who said in February he was spending more time than anticipated in the department, continued overseeing the department last year. He sent a letter to the board in November, saying the change would adversely affect snow and ice management because he would not have the flexibility to recruit Buildings and Grounds personnel when focusing on snow removal.

Shaw said there is more to do in highway and buildings and grounds departments since the highway superintendent became the leader of Buildings and Grounds 22 years ago, and there should be two different supervisors for the two departments.

"I don’t think it serves the town going forward," Casey said.

The two operations were separate departments in Hamburg until Jan. 1, 1997, when the highway superintendent took over supervision of Buildings and Grounds after the previous director retired.

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