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Ossining Questions Highway Superintendent Change

OSSINING, N.Y. – Bob Sherman thinks changing from electing a highway superintendent in Ossining to having the Ossining Town Board appoint one is a bad idea that can be summed up with an old saying.

“If something’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Sherman told the Ossining Town Board during a public hearing Tuesday night in the Town Court building. “We are satisfied. When you talk about a business, it starts at the top. If the rank and file in the Highway Department is doing great, it’s because of the head, starting at (current Highway Superintendent Michael) O’Connor, is doing great.”

Several Ossining residents spoke up in agreement with Sherman. The Town Board is considering a resolution that would abolish the elected position of highway superintendent and replace it with an appointed superintendent. Town Supervisor Susanne Donnelly recently wrote that the board is considering the change after previous discussions at a Town Hall meeting and because of an increasing set of unprecedented challenges facing the department.

“The position and corresponding duties are vital to the success of the community. Every election cycle could threaten the incumbency of an experienced and sound Superintendent,” Donnelly wrote. “If this position were no longer an elected one, the Town could hire the most qualified person for the job, regardless of political affiliation. Some exceptional candidates cannot afford the time or the expense of the election process.”

But Sherman and several other residents who spoke Tuesday night questioned whether the board would be more qualified to select a highway superintendent.

“You’re going to take away the people’s right to choose a superintendent because it needs more qualifications,” Sherman said. “Well, who is going to decide on those qualifications? You folks, who have no qualifications in the highway system and with engineering? So people without qualifications are going to appoint somebody because theoretically you have better qualifications.”

Resident Mindy Lamarre agreed.

“I think Mr. O’Connor is doing a wonderful job. I think people on the board know if I had problems or complaints, I’d be screaming at all of you,” Lamarre said. “I’m not sure I believe what’s been published. I’m not sure the board is looking out for the best interests of the town.”

William Scherer also questioned taking away the people’s right to vote.

“It seems to me like the system we have right now is a good system,” he said. “When the people start to lose their ability to elect someone, it’s not a good thing. I think it’s a mistake if we give that up.”

The board is set to discuss the issue further during its regular town hall meeting Aug. 21 at the Ossining Public Library.

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