PLATTSBURGH — The job of Plattsburgh town engineer — held by 22-year employee Al Sweenor — has been terminated.
In a recent 3-1 vote, the Plattsburgh Town Council abolished the position.
Sweenor is not up for re-appointment until Dec. 31, 2000, after being named to his position in 1995 for a six-year term.
He began work with the town in 1977 as an administrative assistant to former Town Supervisor Arthur LeFevre.
In 1982, he was appointed to the position of town engineer, in addition to the administrative position.
In 1995, during the LeFevre administration, Sweenor was re-appointed to the position.
Last year, the Town Council cut the position of administrative assistant, and Sweenor was named town engineer only.
Sweenor said Monday that he has a year left in his term, and he is seeking legal advice.
"Two days after the election, I was called into Mr. Abdallah's office and told I would be let go," Sweenor said.
He said the only explanation he was given for the termination "was that the board had the power to appoint and terminate the position."
But Town Supervisor Andrew Abdallah contends that town law says the town engineer's appointment must continue only until the Jan. 1 after the first town election held after the appointment is made.
The town is not planning to fill the position.
"We felt we wanted to make a change," Abdallah said.
"Instead of having an employee we want to hire a consultant."
Abdallah said it would be more economical to pay for engineering services as needed.
The consultant would be paid by the hour or on retainer, he said.
The 2000 budget includes Sweenor's salary of $74,664.
In 1999, Sweenor earned $73,473.
"With benefits, Sweenor made $45 an hour," Abdallah said. "For that salary, we could hire a consultant for 20 hours a week, and I can't imagine we would need someone for that amount time."
Town Council member Andrew Winterkorn was not present during the meeting in which the position was eliminated. Town Council member Norman Baker cast the lone vote to keep Sweenor's appointment.
Baker said he does not believe the town will save money with the Sweenor's removal.
"He saved the town thousands of dollars on the extension of water and sewer districts and his close review of subdivisions throughout the town," Baker said.
Sweenor was responsible for the review of designs when Pyramid Corp. and Consumer Square came in to construct malls, Baker said.
"Developers like to not complete projects and leave things out. Al was instrumental in making sure projects were constructed as designed," Baker said.
Abdallah and all the Town Council members except Baker are Republicans. Baker and Sweenor are Democrats.
Baker did not run for re-election and will be finishing his term this year.
Baker fears that, with the loss of Sweenor, there will be no one to "watch over special-interest groups."
But Abdallah said politics was not involved in the decision to remove the position of town engineer.
Shannon Casey is a reporter for the Press-Republican.