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Long IslandTowns

Smithtown officials consider appointing commissioners to manage departments

Smithtown officials may consider restructuring town government by appointing four commissioners to oversee departments.

Smithtown Councilman Robert Creighton presented the proposal at Tuesday's work session, which consolidates current departments into categories for planning and development, human resources, public works and public safety -- each managed by a commissioner appointed by the town board.

"The benefit is that we have a more efficient form of government," Creighton said. "We have situations where the building department doesn't talk to environmental. The environmental department doesn't talk to buildings. Things get hung up that shouldn't get hung up. And that could be clarified and made more concise . . . by having one person over those people."

Councilman Edward Wehrheim said the board could consider appointing current employees as commissioners and not fill their positions to save costs. The Department of Civil Service in Albany would have to approve the reorganization, he said.

Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said he thought the reorganization was unnecessary and expensive.

"I suspect that when you appoint commissioners, you're going to be adding more burden on the taxpayer," Vecchio said. "I think Smithtown is a very efficient town. I think it runs well."

Councilman Thomas McCarthy said a financial analysis would be needed to ensure that the proposal worked, but said he thought it could be feasible if some department positions remained vacant to reduce or neutralize expenses.

Creighton pointed out that other western Suffolk County towns -- Huntington, Islip, Babylon and Brookhaven -- have commissioners.

"All those commissioners are political appointments," Vecchio said. "Those jobs come out of the political clubhouse. Absolutely."

Creighton said that had been the case in the past in some places, but added, "I think that's up to us to control."

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