H’town highway super upset with airport manager’s raise

SARANAC LAKE – Harrietstown Highway Superintendent Craig Donaldson questioned the raise the town board plans to give Adirondack Regional Airport Manger Corey Hurwitch during a public hearing Wednesday night on the town’s preliminary 2014 budget.

Only three people were in the audience for the budget hearing: Donaldson, who was the only one who spoke, Ted Morgan of WNBZ radio and an Enterprise reporter.

Donaldson asked the board why Hurwitch’s salary is slated to increase 5.5 percent, from $62,500 to $65,909, in next year’s budget when the town’s other employees are only getting 1.7 percent raises.

“This is three-years running that he got more than anybody else, and I’d like to know the reason why,” Donaldson said.

Town Supervisor Bob Bevilacqua explained that Hurwitch was originally hired with a lower salary as the airport’s assistant manager and was given a “bump” when he became manager in 2011.

“If he was hired at the same rate as the previous airport manager was, he would still be, even after he gets this raise, about $3,000 short of where the previous airport manager would have been,” Bevilacqua said.

Next year, Hurwitch could be in line for another raise, the supervisor added.

Councilman Jim Murnane noted that Hurwitch has been running the airport without an assistant manager since he took over, which has saved the town money.

“He’s taken on a significant increase in the workload, and I thought (the raise) was justified and deserved,” Murnane said.

Donaldson countered that other department heads, including himself, have been “pretty frugal” over the years but haven’t been equally rewarded.

He also asked why $10,000 has been set aside in next year’s budget to hire someone to oversee the airport when Hurwitch is away. Other town departments use existing employees to serve as deputies or assistants, but those people only get $1,200 stipends, Donaldson said.

“Why can’t somebody make $1,200 and be in charge when Corey is not there?” he asked.

Bevilacqua said each department has different responsibilities. He said Hurwitch has to answer to the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transporta-tion.

“Craig, you’ve always had this fundamental belief that it’s apples to apples, and it’s not,” Murnane said. “That is not to say you don’t do a wonderful job as highway superintendent. That is not to say Corey doesn’t do a fine job as airport manager or Patty (Gillmett) doesn’t do a fine job as town clerk, but those three positions are not apples to apples and they never will be. There’s several different levels that are very different in terms of the management and oversight, and they should be, in my opinion, compensated differently.”

“You’ll never convince me that (airport manager) is a more important job than any other department head here,” Donaldson responded. “I deal with thousands of people that use the roads every day, compared to nine people who use an aircraft a day. I’m just stating a fact. The man has been here four or five years, and he makes more than anybody else that’s been here 31 years.”

Donaldson also asked why the budget includes funding for another airport employee. He suggested the town fill the position with a part-time worker if it wants to save money.

Bevilacqua said the town is paying out a lot of money in overtime because the airport has been short one employee.

“This one person would bring them up to the number of line service techs they had previously,” the supervisor said. “This isn’t a new position. This is refilling a position that was vacated.”

After the public hearing, the board adopted the budget on a 4-0 vote. Councilman Barry DeFuria was absent.

Overall spending in next year’s budget is slated to increase 1.66 percent or $77,400, from $4,648,045 to $4,725,485.

The tax levy would be $2,044,613, an increase of $56,705 or 2.85 percent. Next year’s levy is roughly $1,000 below the state’s property tax cap for the town.

Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or cknight@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.