Yorktown town board members turned down a request from a group of citizens to schedule a public hearing about the creation of a Department of Public Works (DPW) on Tuesday.
Town officials said they need more information – including flow charts, estimated cost savings and procedures – before they could bring up the issue to the public.
"It's a significant structural change," Yorktown supervisor Michael Grace said.
The group of Yorktown residents, that includes two former town supervisors, to adopt a local law that would eliminate the position of elected highway superintendent and transfer that function to a newly created Department of Public Works (DPW).
The four-year term of the current highway superintendent Eric DiBartolo expires on Dec. 31, 2013, and members of the group are aiming for the referendum to be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot, so there is no election for a highway superintendent in 2013.
Jane Daniels, an advocate for the change and a spokesperson for the citizen group on Tuesday, said the deadline to get the referendum question on the ballot is Sept. 1.
If the referendum is approved, the DPW position would become operational as of January 2014.
Grace said the plan was worth exploring, but the issue was too important. He did not want to rush changing a 200-year tradition of having an elected highway superintendent without having all the facts and information.
"I think this is a major, major step you're taking," he told group members. "There is a reason for the history. There is reason for the precedent. You're taking away from the public the ability to make the choice on another elected official, which has a major impact. [...] There is a philosophical case to be made to not change it."
Daniels said the Yorktown Citizens Group for a DPW would make all the research for the town. Their estimates for cost savings to the town are $200,000 to $300,000, something current highway superintendent Eric Dibartolo called "false."
"It seems like [you] have all these thoughts but really nothing is put together," DiBartolo said. "It will take you seven to nine years to hit the $100,000 mark. [You]'re throwing out this number to be very flashy to the residents so everyone thinks this is a great thing."
Neighboring municipalities that have made the change so the highway department is part of a Department of Public Works are Cortlandt, Bedford, New Castle, Greenburgh and Harrison.
Members of the group have said the campaign in not directed toward the current highway superintendent, who has been controversial over the last few years, but rather they're focusing on that department because it's the area where money could be saved.
Councilman Nick Bianco disagreed.
"This is all that's about – they don't want him," he said. "Let's cut to the chase."
The group's plan is to replace the elected highway superintendent position with a department of public works (DWP), which would centralize the current dispersed system.
"It's an issue worth exploring," Grace said.