The Town of Bethlehem will be compensating Interim Highway Superintendent Erik Deyoe with a $10,000 stipend for his work to help transition the department to the control of a leader voters will select in November.
The Town Board voted 4-0 to grant the stipend at a Wednesday, May 22, meeting (Councilman Kyle Kotary was absent). The board also approved paying former Highway Superintendent Gregg Sagendorph $25 per hour to work with Deyoe as a consultant, with the total cost of his work expected to total between $6,000 and $16,000.
Sagendorph retired from the post he held for 22 years at the end of April. A referendum to switch the office from elected to appointed was put to voters at that time, but was defeated. The town had planned to hire an administrator for the Highway Department, said Director of Human Resources Mary Tremblay-Glassman, but now must wait until Jan. 1 for a new superintendent to arrive.
“We would have Erik flying solo for about six or eight weeks, the time of the recruitment process. However that’s not the case, so now Erik will be essentially leading half of our workforce for about eight months.”
Deyoe is also the commissioner of public works, an appointed post.
“The amount of work Erik is doing for the next two-thirds of the year because the referendum didn’t pass is significantly greater than the amount of work and responsibility and hours he would have had to put in if the referendum had passed and the consolidation plan went forward,” said Comptroller Michael Cohen.
Tremblay-Glassman said this scenario would actually save the town money. The town had set aside money to pay an administrator in the event the referendum passed. Paying the stipend and Sagendorph’s part-time consulting salary will be $58,000 to $69,000 cheaper than hiring a full-time administrator, she said, in no small part because the town will not be assuming new pension or benefits costs.
The to-do list for the coming months includes wrapping up ongoing special projects, but officials also want to codify many of the operations of the department before another superintendent arrives. Supervisor John Clarkson remarked many of the duties highway workers routinely carry out – such as operating the compost facility, collecting leaves and watering the hanging flower pots – are not explicit requirements.
“What if a new highway superintendent came in and said, ‘I don’t want to do leaf collection?’” Clarkson said.
He added the state Association of Towns recommends town boards at least pass a resolution stating duties beyond the scope of the law. Tremblay-Glassman agreed with that assessment.
“These things have been done in the past as practice, not as policy,” she said.