New Castle News

Closer Look

February 6, 2014

Our Opinion: Public policy problems persist in Pulaski

NEW CASTLE — The clashes among officials in Pulaski Township are continuing.

At this week’s meeting, two supervisors — Sam Varano and Lori Sniezek — said they will not work as roadmasters at the $10-per-hour rate established for them last month by the township auditors.

The auditors (the two who met) set that rate, as opposed to the $14.45 granted last year, on the grounds the two did not have commercial driver’s licenses.

Instead, the supervisors said they would explore the possibility of establishing a full-time township manager position. Estimates were this would cost between $65,000 and $70,000 for wages and benefits — more than is spent on roadmasters.

The implication is that the actions of the auditors could wind up adding to the financial burdens of township taxpayers.

There are a couple of points to make here. First, no supervisor is required to work as a roadmaster or perform any sort of maintenance or day-to-day duties in a township. While many supervisors name themselves roadmasters and receive wages for the work, that is optional.

We have long argued that this situation inevitably creates conflicts and problems within townships over where the line is drawn between the actions of a supervisor and a roadmaster.

Second, the supervisors don’t have a duty to plow roads, but they do have a duty to see that the work is done. And indeed, creating a manager, or a post of a similar title, has happened elsewhere. The Pulaski Township supervisors are well within their authority to establish such a position if they deem it warranted.

But if that happens, voters have a say in the outcome, because they can oust any supervisors they believe are spending money unnecessarily.

In this instance, should the Pulaski supervisors opt to create such a manager position, they will no doubt try to blame the auditors.

We’re not sure that would work, because it’s the supervisors who determine policy and set taxes. At the end of the day, they are accountable.

Yet in this instance, the auditors cannot avoid public scrutiny. The supervisors say they have sought further explanation from the auditors regarding wage rates but have received silence in return.

Auditor Dan Abramson acknowledged to the New Castle News that he had ignored the requests from the supervisors, and he indicated the decision on wages was linked to the fact the auditors were denied immediate access to wage information they had sought from the township prior to their meeting.

If so, that’s a poor justification. Public policy in the form of payback is irresponsible, and another example of the dubious service Pulaski Township residents are receiving these days.

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