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The Cayuga County Highway Department and several other departments responsible for county facilities and infrastructure will be reorganized into a single unit.

The Cayuga County Legislature last week voted to create a Department of Public Works, which will combine the highway department, buildings and grounds department, parks and trails; and weights and measures into a single administrative structure.

According to a memo prepared by County Administrator J. Justin Woods, the only cost of the change is an approximately $20,000 to $30,000 increase for the position of Director of Public Works that would oversee the entire department.

Woods said the new structure would allow through increased efficiency through cross-training for employees, the ability for workers to jump between departments as needed, and a streamlined administrative structure.

Effectively, the director position would replace what is now the highway superintendent position, currently filled by Acting Superintendent Dan Bowen.

The superintendent position is currently budgeted for $78,000, and raising the salary for the new director position to between $85,000 to $110,000. That would bring the position in line to what several peer counties pay their superintendents, but with the additional responsibilities of the new department, Woods said.

Citing a need to properly reorganize and align the highway department on its own first, Legislator Paul Pinckney, R-Aurelius, said he believed the plan made sense for the future but he could not support it currently.

Legislator Keith Batman, D-Springport, said with any large organization there is always one section that needs more attention than another, and the proposed restructuring offered an opportunity to attend to the highway department's needs.

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While “not the biggest fan” of the proposal, Legislator Tucker Whitman, R-Sterling agreed that the proposal at least would provided a much-needed starting point for change as opposed to more discussion.

“That's all we've done is talk about it,” Whitman said.

Following the public hearing portion, Batman introduced a motion to table the resolution until the next full Legislature meeting, by when the body would be well into the 2019 budget process, which would provide clarity and context to consider the cost of the proposal, he said.

“My only concern is where are we going to be next year?” Batman asked, later adding “It does no harm, it seems like, to wait another month.”

Legislature Chairman Pat Mahunik, D-Auburn said the harm would come from the fact that the contract for Bill Dashnaw, the former St. Lawrence County highway superintendent acting as a consultant for Cayuga County, expires Jan. 1, meaning a delay in hiring could lead to a gap in leadership at the department.

“I think we just need to move forward,” Mahunik said.

The motion to table was defeated and the resolution itself passed shortly after. With the resolution to establish the department successful, the Legislature was then asked to vote on a resolution to advertise for and fill the director position, which also passed.

A recruitment notice for the director position has since been posted on the county's official website at cayugacounty.us/portals/0/cadmin/personnel/Recruitment_DirectorPW.pdf

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Staff writer Ryan Franklin can be reached at (315) 282-2252 or ryan.franklin@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @RyanNYFranklin

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