The uneasy truce between Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Alex Gregor, the town's Highway Superintendent, is over.
The pair has quarreled in the past; usually over Gregor's insistence that he be allowed to run his department free from what he calls "interference" from the town supervisor.
This time around Gregor is fuming because the town's just-released 2013 budget cuts his department's budget and removes chores historically done by the Highway Department, meaning his authority is diminished.
Specifically, the street lighting district, which has traditionally been serviced by the town's highway department, will now be handled by the parks and recreation department. "That takes away my bucket trucks, it takes away two employees," Gregor said. "She's trying to minimize the things I'm trying to accomplish. His paving budget, the method he collects leaves, and even his authority to cut checks to pay bills have been altered. Gregor charges.
Throne-Holst agreed changes are being made. But, she insists, it's business, not personal. She said the entire town board is on board. "We are all in agreement, all five of us." Throne-Holst said budget constraints have made the changes necessary. "There's a spike in our debt service because of prior borrowing. We've had to limit capital spending."
Gregor said one proposed change requires that leaves picked on the eastern side of town must be driven back to the North Sea disposal facility. "It's punitive and it's a waste of the taxpayers' money," Gregor said. Currently he brings leaves picked up in Mount Misery and other points near Sag Harbor to the village's transfer facility. Other loads collected out east are given to farmers for mulch. The practice saves time and fuel.
"We've had ongoing discussions with him . . . we've asked for information, he hasn't provided it. The leaves and other debris go to the Municipal Works Dept. You can't say `I'm going to do this differently. "There are DEC contracts we are bound by," the supervisor said.
Throne-Holst said the chore of tending to the town's lights has traditionally been split, with the Parks and Rec employees doing some and the highway department others. She said the consolidation "best serves our constituents."
Gregor said his paving budget will be cut from $3.5 million to $1.4 million, which will take its toll on his ability to keep the town's streets paved in a timely manner.
"He has a healthy surplus in his budget," Throne-Holst responded, "and this will give him a chance to spend it." State Senator Ken LaValle also secured $400,000 in state aid for the town's roads, she added.
Gregor said he now must get approval for expenditures over $500. "I oversee $11 million in highway taxes and all of a sudden I need the comptroller's approval to run my department."
It's all personal, Gregor insisted. "She hates my guts."