Guilderland hopes to hire new town planner in June

The Enterprise — Elizabeth Floyd Mair

Gregory Wier was appointed, about a week ago, to replace Steve Oliver as Guilderland’s highway superintendent. The town is considering the best way to fill Wier’s former job as director of the town’s parks and recreation department.

GUILDERLAND — Twice now, Guilderland has had a town planner lined up and been on the verge of announcing that person’s appointment, over the year-and-a-half since Jan Weston resigned, according to town Supervisor Peter Barber.

“We’ve had two people back out after a long process, just on the verge of being appointed,” Barber said.

The town has been without a planner since Jan. 1, 2017.

Whoever comes in as planner, Barber noted, would give an opinion on the Planned Unit Development application currently before the town board for Hiawatha Trails. This project, which would put up 256 independent-living apartments for seniors and an office building on a site that is now a golf course, has met with significant resistance from neighbors, some of whom have complained that the town needs a planner who can keep an eye on the big picture of development in town.

The initial budget for a planning consultant assumed part-time hours, Barber said, but, since the year is now half-gone, the town plans to hire someone full-time, applying the unused “$30,000 (recommended)” for a part-time consultant in the 2018 budget toward a full-time salary for the remainder of this year, and then budget for a full-time employee going forward.

Barber said that the town can also add in monies for the planner’s 2018 salary from salary lines in the current budget that were unused because of temporary vacancies — noting as an example the town justice position.

Barber first told The Enterprise in February that a candidate had had a change of heart and decided not to take the job.

On May 4, Barber said it has happened again.

Barber said that the part-time job had been posted some time ago on blogs for professional planners, and that it had been taken down after the town tentatively hired a part-time planning consultant, a town resident.

When that did not work out, the town used civil-service listings for planning positions, advertising there, Barber said, for a full-time town planner. Just as the board was preparing to make the appointment, the candidate decided to stay with his current employer, because it had just lost one of its other planners and needed his services, Barber added.

The town still has “a lot of good résumés” on hand, and will continue to look through those and will also post with “state regional planning organizations, so they can share with their members,” Barber said, in hopes of bringing in more applications.

Barber thinks it is more likely that the town will find a local candidate, rather than someone from out of town. He said that the town does not have a residency requirement for its employees but it gives residents preference when hiring.

In recent months, the board has been quite busy with extensive interviews for a new town justice and a new highway superintendent, Barber said.

Barber does not currently have anyone in mind for planner, he said, but he hopes to announce the hire at either the town board’s first or second meeting in June.

“We’re going to have to look at résumés for a short time — a couple of weeks — and invite people in for interviews,” he said.

No parks director for now

No decision has been made about when or whether to replace Gregory Wier as head of the town’s parks and recreation department, Barber said.

Wier was appointed highway superintendent as of the end of April, replacing Steve Oliver, who retired a year before his term was up.

Wier will need to run for the office this November if he wants to continue in the highway superintendent position.

Wier was in charge of not only parks and recreation but also the town’s golf course, Barber said, with the course’s director, Herb Moreland, reporting to him. Wier’s responsibilities were broad, Barber said, and at some points in the town’s history they had been split up among a number of different people.

The decision to be made now is whether to continue having one person in charge of all the responsibilities Wier handled, or whether to break it up, Barber said, noting that the system of having one person in charge worked well under Wier and that the town is leaning toward continuing it.

This week, Barber visited the parks and recreation department’s offices to see how things are going and how staff want to move forward. He called the people in the department “a wonderful group of people.”

On a temporary basis, Barber said, Colin Gallup, who is the department’s maintenance and grounds supervisor, is “stepping up to cover the parks part” of the job. Likewise, he said, Amy Boyt, the recreation administrative assistant, has taken on additional responsibilities.

This echoes what Barber told The Enterprise earlier about the lack of a town planner: that planning board Chairman Stephen Feeney and Chief Building and Zoning Inspector Jacqueline Coons were working together to complete many of the tasks formerly done by Jan Weston, who served as planner for 30 years.

“There are some projects that Greg would like to stay in on,” Barber said this week.

Barber said he has tried to “blend departments” where appropriate, encouraging cooperation, collaboration, and bringing experience to bear on new problems. For instance, he said, the parks department sometimes needs help with tasks like “opening up drainage,” he said, and the water department is able to help. “And the parks people help out the highway people when they can,” he said.

Wier said this week that he would like to “stay involved a little bit” in projects that started while he was with parks and recreation, even though he would no longer be in charge. He was referring, he said, to grant money that the town will apply for, for some improvements to Tawasentha Park or other areas. One, he said, would be for terracing of the hill in front of the park’s outdoor amphitheater, known as GPAC, or the Guilderland Performing Arts Center, to make it easier to navigate.

If grant money does come through, Wier would like to “kind of see them through,” he said.

“It’s definitely going to be their projects,” Wier said, referring to the parks and recreation department. “But I’d like to keep my fingers in a little bit.”

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