With the possibility of current Willsboro Department of Public Works commissioner Peter Jacques retiring at the end of his term in 2013, the voters of Willsboro have to answer the question of how his replacement will be chosen.
The Willsboro town council voted 4-0 at its Sept. 12 meeting to place a proposition on the Nov. 8 ballot to let the voters decide whether the position should be an elected or appointed one starting in 2014.
Jacques, who will have spent 30 years in public service at the end of his term, said that nothing is official, but he was leaning toward retiring.
“The question that we want to ask people is whether they want to have an appointed DPW head or if they want to continue to elect that position,” Willsboro Supervisor Edward “Ed” Hatch said.
Willsboro formed a Department of Public Works in 1993, which combines the highway, water and sewer services into one entity. Hatch said that whoever replaces Jacques would have to either already have the qualifications or would have to be trained on the town’s dime if not qualified.
“The next DPW commissioner will be required to be licensed for water, sewer and be able to operate the highway department equipment,” Hatch said. “They need to have experience in all departments, and the question that needs to be answered is if we can accomplish that better by election of appointment.”
Hatch also said that a move from elected to appointed would give the town board more of a say in the department’s workings.
“Under the present situation, the town board controls the budget and the commissioner controls the operations,” Hatch said. “Under an appointment, the town board would have control of the operations.”
Hatch said that the proposition was, in his mind, a “suggestion,” on how operations can be improved at a town level.
“Like everything else, government at all levels has to become more streamlined,” Hatch said. “In the end, this is the people’s choice.”
Hatch said that he hopes to get a discussion going about the issue, which will be a topic at the Wednesday, Oct. 5 meeting of the Willsboro town board, scheduled for 6 p.m. at the town offices. Hatch added that there will also be an informal meeting that will be scheduled for something between the meeting at the Nov. 8 general election.