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Massena town board voiced displeasure with village over code enforcement drama

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MASSENA - Massena Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said he doesn’t understand comments made by Mayor James F. Hidy that there was never any intent for Peter T. Devine serve as a department head.

The village board accepted Mr. Devine’s resignation as its part-time code enforcement officer at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“The whole idea we had in mind was to have a joint code enforcement office,” Mr. Gray said.

Councilman Albert N. Nicola agreed, noting the joint office would have supplied the code enforcement office with proper staffing to keep the office open during the week.

“The muddying of the waters is we need someone to run that office,” Mr. Nicola said.

Mr. Gray agreed, but noted the response he has received when voicing that concern is, “They can go to the fire department (who are handling code enforcement duties for the village).”

Councilman Charles A. “Chuck” Raiti though said that is not acceptable.

“We have a code enforcement officer,” he said. “We need to take care of people coming in here who want building permits.”

Mr. Hidy said he would like to see code enforcement work under the auspices of the fire department, with Foreman Ken McGowan serving as a department head for both the fire and code enforcement departments.

“It didn’t make sense to me to have a part-time department head working for the village when we could consolidate the position,” he said.

Mr. Gray said he thinks it’s unfortunate that the fire department has become involved in an issue that he said isn’t of importance to them.

“We keep hearing about the fire department’s contract,” he said. “I don’t give a damn about the firemen’s contract. It’s not a firemen’s issue; it’s a code enforcement issue.”

The intent of the intermunicipal agreement was for the town and village to have a shared code enforcement office, with Mr. Devine working 15 hours for the town and 15 hours for village, but with the village board now not planning to hire a code enforcement officer of its own town board members said they have several questions about the office.

Councilman John F. Macaulay said the staffing of the office is a big concern for him.

“Fifteen and 15 may have made sense for a joint office, but 15 alone may not,” he said, suggesting increasing the hours Mr. Devine will dedicate to code enforcement duties.

Mr. Gray said going forward the town needs to establish code enforcement hours, something that he said would give the office a bit of stability.

Councilman Thomas C. Miller asked if Mr. Devine could work 40 hour weeks when secretary Avis Hazelton is on vacation.

“If we add a bunch of hours, it will change his status in terms of receiving benefits,” Mr. Gray said.

Mr. Macaulay said that while an agreement between the town and village is still needed to finalize the terms of who pays how much of Ms. Hazelton’s salary, at this point he doesn’t trust the village.

“We can’t trust them anymore,” he said. “They voted to hire that guy too, if they’re (village board) allowing the mayor to do what he wants in that office, shame on them.”

Mr. Macaulay said Mr. Hidy doesn’t have the authority to hire or fire anyone.

“It doesn’t matter what he thinks,” Mr. Macaulay said. “The mayor cannot unilaterally take action without the board agreeing to it.”

And with a couple of major projects coming up in the town, Mr. Nicola said now is not the time for confusion in their code enforcement department.

“There can’t be confusion in that office with these two major projects we’ve got coming up,” he said, referring to the modernization of Alcoa and the construction of Dick’s Sporting Goods at St. Lawrence Centre.

Former Town Supervisor Gary Edwards said this is just another example of shared services not working out.

“Let’s start working for the town. Forget about the village,” he said, referring to shared services as “hugging and kissing.” “Let them take care of their own problems.”

Mr. Edwards, who was supervisor for four years prior to Mr. Gray, said the village board creating problems for town officials is nothing new.

“They screw us all the time,” he said. “They did it for the four years I was here and from what I can see they’re trying to do it now.”

Mr. Macaulay said that while shared services don’t always work out, there are several examples of good cooperative efforts between the town and village, listing the recreation department, fire department and courts.

“Unfortunately in this instance it didn’t work out well,” he said.

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