Public hearings are a good way for residents to have their voice heard, but they aren’t the most effective way to get answers.
That’s the reason Glenville town Supervisor Chris Koetzle gave for he and the Town Board scheduling an informational community forum Monday regarding the proposed restructuring of the supervisor’s office. The forum will be a chance for residents to hear a presentation on the restructuring, ask questions and get answers.
“One of the frustrations with public hearings is that people often try to ask questions, but you can’t answer them in the moment,” said Koetzle. “So this is really an effort to inform. This is about communicating with people as much as we can.”
Koetzle and the board members took heat at a Town Board meeting last week on their proposal to make the currently part-time supervisor position a full-time one. About half of the residents who spoke during privilege of the floor did so to criticize or question their representatives for attempting to change the position without first receiving public comment and input.
Because privilege of the floor rules prevent the supervisor and board members from answering any questions while someone is having their say, many questions went unanswered until the “supervisor’s comments” portion of the meeting. Others were forgotten in the heat of the moment.
The community forum will be an opportunity for residents to engage in a question-and-answer round with their town representatives on the proposal, said Koetzle.
The board did schedule a Dec. 4 public hearing on the proposal, giving residents another opportunity to have their say. But the town’s rules on public hearings are also not conducive to a question-and-answer format.
“We feel like this will give an opportunity for us to answer all questions and provide as much transparency as possible,” said Koetzle. “I’m very hopeful that residents will come out, and not just the small group of very vocal, politically aligned people who have made this more about a personal issue than what is best for the town.”
The board has planned a short presentation for the Monday forum, followed by a question-and-answer session. The presentation will include information on the history of the supervisor’s position, a comparison of the position and proposed pay with other towns, the efficiencies the restructuring would create and the savings it would achieve.
Koetzle, who is currently paid a part-time salary of $19,152, estimated the move would save the town about $16,500 in its 2014 budget. If the restructuring to full-time is approved, he would draw a full-time salary of $83,000 — the amount currently paid to Director of Operations Jamie MacFarland, who is retiring.
The board members have proposed keeping the line for Koetzle’s current part-time salary in the budget so that they have the option of keeping MacFarland on in a part-time capacity to handle some extra responsibilities during the transition. The director of operations position would be eliminated.
Koetzle said the savings would come from eliminating a $10,000 salary included in the budget for a confidential secretary to the supervisor — a position that was filled once during his tenure, but lasted only a year.
“Then we would have additional savings because once Jamie retires, the town won’t be contributing to health insurance and retirement at t