Department head, councilmen clash

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Town Water Superintendent Leroy Bear

GREENVILLE — Town Water Superintendent Leroy Bear threatened to retire or quit if officials didn’t agree to pay him additional compensation for work related to the town’s sewer upgrade project.

Town Supervisor Paul Macko introduced a resolution at the council’s Jan. 17 meeting to pay Bear an extra $5,000 on top of his regular salary for additional work duties he would take on with regard to the project.

Town Councilman Joel Rauf challenged the proposal, saying the project falls within Bear’s regular work duties.

“We would be paying you extra for doing your job,” Rauf told Bear. “This is your job.”

The duties would involve working with the town’s engineering firm on identifying the location of various shutoff valves and other components of the town’s wastewater system, along with other duties.

Bear said he was willing to leave his full-time position if the town didn’t agree to the additional payment.

“I will retire tonight,” Bear said. “This is not worth it for me to do all this extra work and not get paid for it.”

Any employee asked to do additional work outside the scope of his usual duties would expect to be paid more, Bear said.

“If you have a bus route and they add a second bus route, you will want more money for it,” he said.

Macko said Bear’s expertise with regard to the wastewater system would prove invaluable.

“Nobody else knows where all the valves and all the shutoffs are,” Macko said. “And all the work that has to be done on Wickes Lane and hooking that plant up with the new (water) tower — there’s a lot to it.”

Tucker Lewis, who works with Delaware Engineering — the firm spearheading the sewer upgrade — said having a town employee knowledgeable about the system could be a big help.

“I have done a lot of these projects — I have worked on million-dollar projects, and it helps to have somebody in the town that knows where everything is,” Lewis said. “There is nothing worse than being on a job and the employee says, ‘No, that’s not my job.’ Having somebody there to help you, helps.”

Town Councilman Travis Richards seconded the motion but made clear he opposed Bear’s threat to quit.

“I’m going to second this, however with an objection,” Richards said. “Not to Leroy doing it, but I am going to object to the attitude that was brought forth just a few minutes ago. I don’t like this ‘pay me or else.’ I don’t like that. I don’t like that attitude.”

Bear responded, “It’s a fact of life. It’s not an attitude.”

Richards reiterated that he did not appreciate the threat and that Bear could have made his case in another way.

“It can be presented differently, Leroy. When you come across and say, ‘pay me or I’ll retire,’ or ‘pay me or I’ll quit,’ I don’t like that. I really don’t,” Richards said.

Bear contended that he was promised the additional pay and that “now you are reneging.”

Richards rejected that argument and said the issue had been discussed in an executive session of the board, but that no final decision had been made.

“You just heard me second [the motion], so I am not reneging on anything, number one,” Richards said. “Number two, the board did not make that decision. When we went into that room for executive session, the decision was made before we walked into that room by three people, one of whom is not sitting here. So again, I’m seconding it, but I don’t like the presentation that I just got from you.”

Bear was invited to attend the board’s executive session at its Nov. 15 meeting, according to meeting minutes posted on the town’s website. Executive sessions are closed to the public.

The board voted in favor of the resolution to pay Bear the additional funds by a 3-0 vote. Town Councilman Richard Bear abstained from the vote and Town Councilman John Bensen was absent from the meeting.

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