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Highway superintendent could see salary increase by $20K for additional duties

The recently elected highway superintendent will see his salary increase by $20,000 under a proposal presented by Riverhead Town officials.

The salary for Mike Zaleski, who began the new role at the start of the year, would increase from $94,803 to $114,803. A public hearing on the proposal at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting drew only one speaker. The increase will not go into effect for at least 45 days, during which a referendum could be filed by residents against the proposal. The salary increase would be prorated for the rest of the year at the time it’s approved.

Michael Zaleski

The $20,000 difference stems from the town’s assignment of additional duties and responsibilities to the highway superintendent related to the municipal garage, according to deputy town attorney Annemarie Prudenti.

The town offered the same additional $20,000 to former highway superintendent George “Gio” Woodson when he agreed to take over management of the municipal garage in 2018, Ms. Prudenti said.

After the Town Board vote, residents would have 45 days to decide whether to initiate a petition against the increase.

Resident Ellen Hoil questioned why this additional money wasn’t in the town budget.

Town finance administrator Bill Rothaar said the money is in the budget, but it’s in the municipal garage budget, rather than the highway department budget.

Officials said the additional money was budgeted under the municipal garage because it wasn’t certain if a new highway superintendent would want the added duties.

Ms. Prudenti said the public hearing notice for the preliminary budget must contain the salaries of elected officials like the supervisor, town board members, town clerk and highway superintendent.

She said Mr. Woodson received the additional $20,000 for managing the municipal garage from 2018 through 2021, when his last term ended. He chose not to seek reelection in 2021.

The Town Board closed Tuesday’s hearing on the salary increase and will allow written comments for 14 days, until April 1, at 4:30 p.m. in the Town Clerk’s office.