LOWVILLE Lewis Countys solid waste operation is no longer part of the highway department.
County legislators on Tuesday established a solid waste and recycling department and named longtime transfer station foreman Peter J. Wood, Harrisville, as director of solid waste management at an annual salary of $52,112.
It just made sense to separate the two departments and make Pete the department head, said Legislature Chairman Jack T. Bush, R-Brantingham.
Gary F. Buckingham, following a stint as legislator, was hired in 1989 as the countys first solid waste coordinator, along with deputy highway supervisor, and retained oversight of the solid waste when he was appointed chief of the highway department in 1991.
Gary really spearheaded that whole deal, so it made sense to combine those two jobs, Mr. Bush said.
The two highway superintendents after Mr. Buckingham Thomas M. Sweet and Joseph C. Chuck Langs additionally served as solid waste coordinator, as well.
However, after Mr. Langs resigned in early May, legislators appointed his deputy, David L. Becker, solely as highway superintendent at an annual base salary of $60,000. That was a roughly $4,000 decrease from his predecessors salary.
Mr. Bush said there had been some prior discussion about formally splitting the two departments, which have long had separate budgets, but the change in highway chief made this a good time for that shift. Mr. Wood has been handling day-to-day operations at the county transfer sites for many years, so other employees and customers should see minimal impact, he said.
While Mr. Wood received a slight bump in salary for his new job as a department head, the cumulative effect of the change has resulted in a slight overall decrease in salaries, Mr. Bush said.
The new solid waste director is no stranger to the operation, having been hired in mid-1989 as it was just being formed.
These buildings werent even built yet, Mr. Wood said, referring to one at the Lowville transfer site.
The vote on the change was 9-1, with Legislator Richard C. Lucas, R-Barnes Corners, opposed.
Mr. Lucas said he would not support the move on the grounds that the county should not be creating new departments.
Legislator Charles R. Fanning, R-Copenhagen, countered that the solid waste operation has been running well for the past couple of years at no cost to the county and should not be tied to the highway department.
A business should have its own director, said Legislator Paul M. Stanford, D-Watson.
County leaders in mid-2010 directed solid waste officials to run the operation as an enterprise fund. That means the costs are to be covered completely by fees charged at the county transfer stations in Lowville and Croghan with no taxpayer subsidies.
Were able to support ourselves and were thankful for that, Mr. Wood said.
The new director credited legislators for their support and commended his fellow workers for their efforts.
It makes this job much easier, he said.
The county operation last year had its best year ever for sale of recyclables, and the hope is that a regional marketing effort by the Development Authority of the North Country and the federal governments push for companies to make more recyclable items will continue that positive trend, Mr. Wood said.
The less you put into a landfill, thats the whole goal, he said.
The addition of a bin specifically for disposal of electronic equipment also has been positive, with more than 35 tons of electronics dropped off over the first half of this year, Mr. Wood said.