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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, November 11, 2010
Village “on target” in search for new top cop
By Jo E. Prout
ALTAMONT The village board may be able to fill the vacant public safety commissioner position by the end of the year, if one of several applicants for the job fits the bill.
Trustee Kerry Dineen told The Enterprise this week that Altamont received a fair number of applicants by the Oct. 25 deadline set by the board last month.
At the village board meeting Tuesday, Dineen gave no public report about the search. She told The Enterprise that she could not recall the exact number of applicants; a previous recruitment five years ago yielded 15 applications and five viable candidates, she said last month.
“It looks very good at this time,” Dineen said Tuesday. Dineen and Trustee Christine Marshall and residents Dick and Ellen Howie make up the newly formed search committee.
After the board named Anthony Salerno as public safety commissioner five years ago, the village sought to have the exam requirement removed, but was turned down by the State Civil Service Commission, which denied the request in July 2009, finding a “lack of compelling evidence” and citing the “clear practicability” of the exam. None of this was discussed publicly until Harvey Vlahos, a former trustee and unsuccessful candidate for mayor, raised the issue at a village board meeting in May. Salerno refused to say whether or not he took the exam as did the mayor.
After the Civil Service list came out and Salerno’s name wasn’t on it, he told the board at its July 6 meeting that he had been planning to retire all along and that’s why he didn’t take the exam.
Four men passed the exam; the top three did not respond to letters canvassing their interest. Rather than interviewing the fourth candidate, making a provisional appointment, or considering lists of police chiefs, the village board placed Mayor James Gaughan in a supervisory position over the department, and kept Salerno on with a 50-percent pay-rate increase as a part-timer, meaning he did not have to pass an exam.
Salerno was removed from the commissioner’s post, as required by law since he hadn’t passed the required exam, and the board named him “team leader” of an 11-member part-time force. The mayor repeatedly asserted that Civil Service rules should not apply to a small village like Altamont since candidates weren’t interested in the job.
Gaughan said at the board’s September board meeting that the Civil Service system was “meritorious” when it was designed but that its requirements do not always fit a small village like Altamont.
Civil Service Law was established so that government jobs would be awarded on merit rather than favoritism.
“They don’t work,” Gaughan said in September. “We’ve got to fight, again, to get some control back. We are the end of the tail of the wagging dog downtown. We want to gain back local control of what we do.”
In October, the board announced the new search committee, along with a short timeline that would allow a potential police commissioner to be chosen by early December and installed by January 2011. Salerno will help a new commissioner learn the post through the transition month, Gaughan said in October.
Because Salerno was appointed provisionally in 2005, he had to pass the Civil Service exam for the post or leave the position by this Aug. 24.
“We had to have a solution by August 24,” Dineen said last month. The village board adopted a team structure for the police department on Aug. 24. The board waited until then to begin recruitment because, “at that time, we were still working in August to see if we could maintain what we already had,” Dineen said.
She also said that the village for the current search advertised in The Altamont Enterprise and The Times Union and posted notices on its website and a police website, and it canvassed the person who took the May Civil Service exam and expressed interest in the post.
Dineen said last month that the village would continue to work to have Altamont’s police commissioner post placed in a non-competitive class. Village board members have said that the village has difficulty recruiting for the post because of its location, full-time status, and relatively low pay. The village budgeted $44,000 for a full-time commissioner last year.
“I was happy to see the interest in the position for our village,” Dineen told The Enterprise on Tuesday. “We seem to be adhering to the timeline. It looks like we’re on target.”
In other business, the board:
Agreed to install sequencing batch reactors, or SBRs, and filters at the village’s wastewater treatment plant immediately in a two-phase plan. The board hopes to receive funding that is subsidized at 50 percent by the state Environmental Facilities Corporation, with the anticipation that the interest rate would be lower than 2.03 percent, or $95 per person per year, according to Richard Straut, an engineer with Barton and Loguidice.
Work for the first phase could begin in 2013. Trustee Marshall said that the sludge-holding tanks could then be replaced in 2026, once the water debt is paid off.
Trustee Dean Whalen asked if the holding tanks were in good enough shape to wait that long for replacement. Superintendent of Public Works Tim McIntyre said that they are; and
Agreed to sell a village-owned keyhole lot at 126 Witter Road in Knox that offers access to the village reservoir. The lot will be sold with a conditional easement for village access.
“It really hasn’t served any purpose to us,” McIntyre said. The village has two other points of access to the reservoir, he said. The village pays $680 per year in taxes for the property.