Town axes planning director position; left with one planner

Planning director Rick Hanley looking over Lowes' site plan for the former Suffolk Life building on Route 58 in 2009. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
Planning director Rick Hanley looking over Lowes’ site plan for the former Suffolk Life building on Route 58 in 2009. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The Riverhead Town Board abolished the planning director position on Tuesday night, which was held by Rick Hanley for more than 25 years.

The Town Board voted 3-2 to eliminate the position at the end of the year, with Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and Councilman John Dunleavy voting in opposition of the measure.

“It’s going to leave the planning department with only one planner,” Mr. Dunleavy said casting his vote.

Mr. Dunleavy said he believes the planning department will fall behind reviewing applications because of the lack of staff.

That department already lost one position to retirement after environmental planner Joseph Hall accepted a retirement incentive, one of 11 town employees who accepted the incentive earlier this year. His salary in 2014 was about $104,900.

Ms. Giglio said she opposed the resolution because she belives the town should keep Mr. Hanley on staff and eliminate Jeff Murphree’s planning and building administrator since he’s responsible for coordinating both departments. Mr. Murphree was hired in 2011.

The elimination of the nearly $118,800 planing director salary was part of an effort to cut spending in light of a $4 million gap in the town’s general fund projected for 2015. Town officials have said the estimated budget deficit is the result of the town using fund balance from land sales at the Enterprise Park at Calverton to keep taxes down.

However it wasn’t clear Tuesday if Mr. Hanley, who didn’t attend the meeting, has agreed to retire.

Town officials said they haven’t received any retirement notice from Mr. Hanley.

On Thursday, he indicated he wasn’t sure what he’s going to do.

Under a civic service law commonly referred to as “bump and retreat,” the most recently hired employees are the first to be laid off when a position is cut.

Now that the town has officially eliminated Mr. Hanley’s position, he could still move down the chain and take a nearly $86,000 planner position currently held by Karin Gluth, who would be laid off instead.