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Schoharie County supervisors may vote on administrator proposal

Wednesday, January 22, 2014
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— Schoharie town Supervisor Gene Milone expects to call for a vote Friday on hiring a county administrator for Schoharie County.

Milone, who distributed a draft local law to supervisors earlier this month, is proposing County Treasurer William Cherry take on the role if fellow supervisors reject the idea due to its cost.

Cherry said this week he’s not interested in serving as county administrator, but he’d take on extra duties temporarily if the board asked him to.

Milone said members of the county board do little to maintain order in the county’s day-to-day business. An investigation by independent attorneys, costing more than $300,000, characterized the county workplace as fraught with “general dysfunction” that includes “incivility, rudeness and outright hostility between board members, department heads, employees and members of the public.”

While trying to organize its own leadership in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, half the county’s Board of Supervisors in 2012 filed a lawsuit against Summit town Supervisor Harold Vroman, who was board chairman at the time.

These and other issues wouldn’t be happening if somebody was in charge during the day, Milone said.

“If we were on top of all these issues on a daily basis and the board members were willing to meet more than once a month, maybe we wouldn’t be experiencing the problems we are,” he said.

Fulton town Supervisor Phil Skowfoe, the board’s vice chairman, said he has a “divided” opinion on the county administrator idea, which has come up in the past and never progressed. He said he’s interested in the idea of Bill Cherry playing an administrative role, but not at the risk of sacrificing his work as budget officer.

“I wouldn’t want to see him lose that job,” Skowfoe said.

As to daily management, he said things would probably be different if the post were an established position.

“I’m thinking if we had [an administrator] we wouldn’t be in the situation we were in,” Skowfoe said.

Milone said he’s eager to see which wins out: new people on the county board or the “old mindsets.” Old mindsets, he said, will respond with “We need to investigate this further.”

He said he’s frustrated about a plan for tax abatements to draw residents into post-disaster Schoharie County, which he introduced in October and which was still in committee at year’s end.

“Now I have to go to committee again. ... You can’t accomplish anything, and it frustrates me to no end. You make a decision, yes or no,” Milone said.

Cherry also coordinates the county’s flood recovery. He said he’s been hearing talk about a county manager or administrator since he first took office as Schoharie supervisor back in 1994. “It does come up on a regular basis,” he said.

Cherry said he appreciate’s Milone’s confidence in his abilities, but he doesn’t want the job.

“I’m not the least bit interested in stepping down as county treasurer,” he said.

He said if the Board of Supervisors wanted to explore how the county would function under daily leadership, he’d give it a try for a year. Trying it out first would be a good idea, Cherry said, because he estimates an administrator with staff could cost the county as much as $300,000 a year.

Supervisors are scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Friday in Schoharie.

 
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