2007-04-25 / Local News

Bucki sponsors resolution to save planning positions

by JESSICA L. FINCH Associate Editor

Deborah Bruch Bucki Deborah Bruch Bucki To many Amherst residents hearing that the town workforce is being reduced may not cause an immediate reaction, but hearing the words development and drainage usually do.

Those two issues have been on the forefront of grievances and the department charged with helping to fix the problems may be cut in a few months.

Two positions from the Planning Department, a planner and landscape architect, were not budgeted in full in 2007 and are scheduled to be removed in June.

Council Member Deborah Bruch Bucki said she doesn't want to see that happen and has a plan to stop it.

Bucki acknowledged voting in November in favor of reducing the department's size but in retrospect has realized a need to retain the two employees.

"What's different now is we have adopted the comprehensive master plan," she said. "And there are so many other things where work needs to be done to be compliant with it."

There is a slew of responsibilities resting on the two professionals slated for removal, said Planning Director Rick Gillert.

Currently the assistant planner is responsible for developing the capital improvement program and prioritizing the projects. This person also identifies the funding source for the projects. CIPs include work for the good of the general public. The assistant planner also has been handling the modifications the zoning map; ensuring the new subdivision regulations are consistent with the comprehensive master plan; and assisting writing grant applications, which was normally done by a grant writer hired for the town.

Many of the grants being sought by the Planning Department would address the town's drainage problems.

The department also stands to lose a landscape architect, a position required for maintaining the zoning map; overseeing the farmland protection program; implementing the non-lethal portion of the deer/accident reduction program, and selecting the places where the Police Department will bait; and working with the Nature View Park Committee.

Gillert said the person holding the post, whom he did not want named, has been recognized by the state for the development of the farmland protection program. He also credits the person with the successful deer/accident reduction program, which realized a 30 percent drop in the number of accidents reported.

During the April 16 meeting, several members of the Nature View Park Committee advocated protecting the landscape architect's position.

"There has been the presumption that other people will have the time to do these projects," Gillert said. "Everyone is carrying a full workload, the department can't be spread any thinner."

According to Bucki's resolution saving the two jobs would not affect the bottom line of the 2007 budget. She suggests using the $50,000 budgeted for six months of unemployment to pay for saving the two positions. A transfer from the Community Development Block Grant Funds, $9,516 and $719, would also be included.

"I am cautious by nature, and don't want to add additional expenses to the town," she said, adding she was convinced this resolution would not affect spending and is necessary for the Planning Department.

In her resolution, Bucki also cited several projects being handled by the Planning Department that affect town residents.

She put the resolution on hold during the April 16 meeting and plans to present it at the May 7 meeting.

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