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Eliminating ‘obsolete’ jobs topic at N.T. budget hearing; auxilliary police honored

Eliminating ‘obsolete’ jobs topic at N.T. budget hearing; auxilliary police honored

by Joseph KisselNovember 9, 2017

Attended by two residents and Alderman-At-Large elect Austin Tylec, methods of increased efficiency in the city’s government were discussed briefly at Wednesday’s budget hearing.

“Technology can be used to remove layers of management, and I was surprised to see that we have several layers of supervisors,” said BJ VanDewater (above), the hearing’s sole speaker. VanDewater has become very active in city and school district affairs during the past year.

“In particular, when I looked at the DPW budget, we have an administrative department that runs the entire department that has a supervisor and two assistant supervisors.”

“I think there are five departments. And each department — if I remember correctly, I could be wrong — had their own supervisor again. And then each supervisor has assistant supervisors. And it seems to me that we are not taking advantage of the technology that’s available to facilitate things that supervisors normally do like communications, coaching, training and things of that nature.”

VanDewater also mentioned this: “And one of the the things I saw in the DPW there’s a department that has five heavy equipment operators and five heavy machine repairman, and I don’t really understand why every operator needs to have his own repairman. And particular that we are not taking advantage of services that we could share with other governmental organizations.”

VanDewater said it was very difficult to get his hands on a copy of the budget, saying that originally he was told he would have to examine the budget in the clerk’s office. Eventually,

“And the last thing … When I started working, there were clerk/typists everywhere. And you needed clerk/typists. Typewriters were expensive. Paper was expensive. But now everybody has an iPad and if you get a keyboard, everybody can type their own stuff. So I’m not quite sure why pretty much every department and sub department has at least one, sometimes two. This doesn’t necessarily apply to the city clerk’s office because a lot of what they do is typing. But in the DPW I’m not sure why have so many clerk/typists floating around.”

“When I started working there were clerk/typists everywhere because you needed them. But by the time I was done working I was doing my own typing even by that point I was a relatively senior executive at the company.”

VanDewater also inquired as to why the mayor’s levels of funding sometimes exceeded the amound requested by a department head.

Chief Accountant Amanda Reimer (above) responded to some of VanDewater’s points and questions.

“I think a lot of the things you touched on were management issues. Those things are kind of up to our administration.”

“But I do want comment on adding to the department heads budget requests. Because that’s something that kind of strategically happened as the result of us having a budget committee.”

At the beginning of the year, the mayor and some members of the council met with Reimer to begin the process of structuring the 2017-18 budget, which was months ahead of how it went in previous years.

“There were a lot of goals and objectives. For example, we added some funding to the department of recreation. As you know we have an aging infrastructure at Memorial Pool. We wanted to make sure that was addressed in the 2018 fiscal year. That’s something that’s been long neglected by the city. And really the critical element there is that it’s in the center of our city. When a department head doesn’t initiate that kind of activity for us, we want to make sure there’s money in the budget for engineering studies look at the structural issues and what we can do a rebuild vs. restore.”

“You might also be aware that throughout this fiscal year we did a capital improvement plan at the sewer treatment facility. And that’s basically going to rank our capital investments there in order of payback method. We anticipate doing the same thing at the water treatment plant. Those are things we wanted to add into the department budgets to support investment into our city, which was really the foundation of our budget this year. And we said a lot of them (department heads) were stuck in the mentality that when you get into the budget session you do more with less. You cut your 5 to 10 percent every single year and that’s left everybody strapped.”

“And then you get in your situation with stuck clerk/typists. You’re stuck with typewriters because there’s no forward momentum. So we said we really want to restructure and take away the ‘cut, cut, cut’ mentality and give a little bit of money to invest. And that wasn’t something the department heads were really prepared for because there was the old way of doing things and now let’s invest, let’s get them some capital and move forward. So we can do things like get rid of clerk/typists, and get IT people in here and everything that we need.”

“So I think there are a lot of valid points with obsolete positions and all that. And that’s really where the movement was. I think you’re going to see a lot of investment and that’s the direction we need to go in.”

Tylec said he thinks the budget meetings are a great idea but currently they are closed to the public and he would like to change that. He also said public meetings should be recorded and posted on the city’s website so residents can understand what’s transpiring in their city without having to physically attend meetings.

(In related budget news in another Niagara County city, the Niagara Falls Common Council held its sixth budget meeting that saw Mayor Paul Dyster’s executive assistant — responsible mostly for issuing press releases — see her position cut from the budget. 

So far, the council has trimmed about $400,000 from the mayor’s budget.)

On Monday, the common council honored members of the city’s volunteer auxiliary police force, who help out at concerts and other large outdoor events as well as “maintaining order and peace.”

“They have been fantastic about showing up to help the regular police department,” said Mayor Aurthur G. Pappas who on Tuesday won another four-year term over challenger Jim McGinnis.

“We are happy to say we have a pretty safe community and it’s because of the auxilliary police working with the police department,” he said.

Two new officers were inducted into the ranks Tuesday night and met with applause from the assembled residents.

About The Author
Joseph Kissel
Joseph Kissel is a journalist, editor and photographer. He is also the Vice President of the New York Coalition for Open Government, a non-partisan, non-profit group that advocates for transparency and the public's right to freedom of information.