Still a rough road for DPW chiefs

Bob Bankoski is leaving the post of Dunkirk’s Department of Public Works supervisor.

Bob Bankoski is leaving the post of Dunkirk’s Department of Public Works supervisor.

More than a year ago, this space spotlighted a public-service position that was growing less popular by the day. As evidenced in our region’s two major population centers of Dunkirk and Fredonia in the last year, it may have hit rock bottom.

On Monday night, Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas announced that current Department of Public Works supervisor Bob Bankoski was resigning. We have no gripes with the job he did — and the amount of hours he dedicated to the position.

What is surprising, however, is the short length of his tenure.

Bankoski was appointed to the position in the middle of last September. It was a part-time appointment that was supposed to equal 30 hours per week. Any person who works for a street department will tell you that is wishful thinking.

“By no means was it an easy job. When (the mayor) asked me about doing it and we agreed upon a certain amount of hours a week, that never was a reality,” Bankoski said. “I’ve worked 40 hours a week every week if not more. … I have a couple small businesses that I operate and I’m just getting pulled in too many directions, so I agreed something had to give.”

Dunkirk, like Fredonia, are both looking for DPW chiefs. Fredonia has been without one since the retirement of Jack Boland. But, as noted in a previous article, the village had to bring Boland back in the spring to do some minor work.

Of course, he — like every other public servant — jumps at that chance. It’s called double dipping. He gets paid hourly while collecting a more than $40,000 annual pension from the state.

To be fair, it happens with all public-sector employees — in the schools, state and municipalities.

But back to our point on the DPW supervisors. Dunkirk is now looking for its third since Rosas took over the position of mayor. His first choice, Greg Bennice, lasted about the same amount of time as Bankoski.

Bennice’s predecessor of 12 years in Tony Gugino understood the frustrations of the job and spoke about them more than a year ago. Declining work forces, old equipment and infrastructure add to the position’s challenges.

“There’s a lot of pressure,” Gugino said last June. “I’m a pretty ambitious guy, but due to financial constraints, public works departments across the county and nation are constantly losing manpower.”

Sharing services has been a buzzword of sorts locally in the last six months, thanks to Chautauqua County’s efforts in a statewide efficiency contest as a finalist with five other governments. Last month, Executive Vince Horrigan, Legislator George Borrello and Dan Heitzenrater from Horrigan’s office made a pitch to a state committee on the regional efforts being made in this county. It was an impressive list of 14 projects aiming at the $20 million state prize for efficiency.

Missing from the list, however, is any effort of consolidating public works departments and highway departments.

Maybe that’s the next step Horrigan can take. Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave county executives the ability to put forth initiatives that will force sharing by public vote in November. Department of Public Works crews from area villages, cities and towns would be stronger as one, not continuing to be divided.

Just take a ride on roads maintained by your municipality. Through no fault of their own, patching potholes and making minor repairs are the best they can do as resources — in terms of money, manpower and leadership — continue to dwindle along with our region’s population.

Now is the time.

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.

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