Schenectady County

Duanesburg town highway post to remain elected office

Duanesburg residents refused to give up their right to elect a highway superintendent.

Duanesburg residents refused to give up their right to elect a highway superintendent.

Voters resoundingly shot down a resolution that would have abolished the elected position in favor of an appointed highway superintendent. Unofficial results had the resolution failing by a vote of 1,595 to 771.

Highway Superintendent Steve Perog lauded the results. He said they reflect Duanesburg’s resolve to retain their democratic right to vote.

“Democracy works, period,” he said after being informed of the results late Tuesday evening. “The people have spoken.”

Town Supervisor Rene Merriew said she wasn’t surprised or bothered by the failure of the resolution. But she did express dismay that voters surrendered an opportunity to finally address long-standing management issues within the Highway Department.

“It’s a shame, because it was a chance to improve,” she said. “But I’m really not disappointed.”

Public clashes between Perog and the board started almost immediately after he took office. But they came to a head in February, when he attempted to fire one of his workers for an altercation that occurred on a job site and board members blocked the termination.

Less than three months later, the town was fined $500 by the state Department of Environmental Conservation after it was determined Perog ordered a private contractor to sweep the road around Duane Lake. Dry conditions caused a massive dust cloud to envelop the neighborhood during Memorial Day weekend.

Merrihew argued that Perog’s operation of the Highway Department was emblematic of the problems the town had experienced with the post since former Superintendent Bill Grimm left office in 2007. By making the position a civil service appointment, she said, the board could ensure a qualified candidate runs the department.

Perog insists the department’s problems lie with its shoestring budget. He said the board chronically underfunds the Highway Department and then blames the superintendent when there’s not enough money to pave roads.

One change will be coming to the highway superintendents position regardless of the failed resolution: Perog will be getting a $22,000 raise. He said he’s gotten a pay increase to reflect his full-time work at the position, plus he’ll receive health benefits and retirement credits.

“Love me or hate me, I’m getting the job done,” he said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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