by Terry Duffy
You can say one thing about Town of Lewiston Supervisor Dennis Brochey since he has taken office: Once he sets his mind on something - good, bad or indifferent - he certainly acts on it.
Monday night, Brochey started the wheels in motion to remove Michael Johnson from any future roles in terms of managing the town's finances. Johnson, a long-time popular and very influential figure at Lewiston Town Hall, who served most recently as finance director under former town Supervisor Steve Reiter, had remained at Town Hall as internal claims auditor following his primary election loss to Brochey last fall. He had been helping new Finance Director Paul Kloosterman and accountant Katelyn Allen oversee the town's finances. Monday, Brochey singled him out for removal in a cost-cutting move. Brochey also said he wanted to move Allen, a junior accountant, to a part-time role.
"I've been talking to Paul Kloosterman about finance and getting a lot of feedback from people," said Brochey. "We have three people doing finance here. ... Paul feels very comfortable handling the whole load, and keeping Katelyn on part-time. After lengthy discussion we feel we can do without Mike for now, unless something drastic comes up."
It was a move Town Board members didn't anticipate, particularly at a previously unscheduled work session. Rather than discuss the matter in public, board members voiced they felt it would be better handled in executive session. "It was the first we heard about this," said Councilman Al Bax. "Can't we do an executive session?"
Brochey said the move to remove was simply meant to save money. "Paul and I were looking at ways to save money," said Brochey, noting Johnson's current salary of $43,000 annually and the town's limited funds. "We're looking at ways of saving several thousand dollars."
The matter abruptly closed on a Bax motion to include it under personnel issues in the executive session that followed.
Commenting on the move later Johnson said he was caught by surprise. "Things like that should have been brought up in executive session and let me know ahead of time. (But) they do what they got to do."
Johnson said over past months he merely had been doing what was asked, and are offered no further comment.
No official action was taken following the executive session.
In other news from the work session:
•The board approved the removal of Lewiston resident Jeffery Williams from the Town Planning Board, citing his lack of attendance at meetings and failure to attend mandated training as required by state law.
•The board OK'd a Bax motion presented by Brochey for Lewiston to enter into discussions with the Town of Marilla and neighboring communities. Its purpose would be toward retaining an environmental attorney to address the Quasar Energy Group and the company's plans of injecting biosolids (recycled sludge or equate) into the soils of area farms, including in Lewiston, where the state Department of Environmental Conservation had earlier issued permits to Quasar.
The town was expected to discuss the cost of retaining an attorney with other municipalities and its doability, given Lewiston's uncertain financial picture.
•The board approved a Bax motion to request the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to authorize an asbestos remediation program at unused buildings in disrepair at Joseph Davis State Park. "They (the asbestos problems) were there before we took over," said Bax.
Bax also said the town should do a review of its future options at Joseph Davis, with a focus on any with a potential of generating new revenue for the town.