Summer’s coming, and talk at the Hamburg Town Board meeting turned to Woodlawn Beach State Park and dogs Monday night.
The state park, which the town operates, opens for the season in less than a month, and the appointment of the woman who has run the beach the last two years is up in the air.
The two Democratic Hamburg Town Board members, Cheryl Potter Juda and Michael Quinn, wanted to terminate Barbara Lipka on Monday night. Her name was on a list of people being hired for the summer for the Youth, Recreation and Senior Services Department.
While Lipka’s job title is recreation attendant, she has been named the general manager of the park the past two years. She makes $15.50 an hour.
Quinn said the board wanted to go in another direction at the beach, and Potter Juda said it would save money.
“You’re saving the town money by removing the person who is primarily responsible for the operations at Woodlawn Beach State Park,” Supervisor Steven Walters said. “It sounds like you’re trying to hurt Woodlawn Beach State Park.”
“I believe it’s a question of management style,” Quinn said, adding that the town would be ready for the beach’s opening May 24.
Walters said that merely saying the beach is going in a different direction for management was not enough and that the public deserved an answer to the question why Lipka was to be removed.
He challenged Quinn to be “honest” and give the real reason. Quinn questioned whether Walters, a Republican, was being honest on why he continued asking the question.
What no one mentioned at the meeting is that Lipka is the chairwoman of the Hamburg Republican Party. She said after the meeting the attempt to terminate her was political.
The board eventually kept Lipka as a part-time employee, at least until the next meeting, rather than changing her status to seasonal, which would have allowed her to work more hours over the summer.
Board members also increased the hours of the dog- control officer from part-time to full-time, a move Walters opposed. “I don’t believe the town requires a full-time dog-control officer. We just don’t have the calls,” he said.
Potter Juda said there was money in the budget to allow for the change. She said police officers have been bitten responding to calls when the dog-control officer is off duty. She also said that she talked to Police Chief Michael Williams about the move and that he fully supported it.
“As a police officer in this town for 26 years, I’ve been bitten several times on the job. The last time I had the dog hanging off my forearm in front of a preschool full of children,” said Officer Joseph O’Brien, adding that police want to be out in the community interacting with residents and fighting crime, not chasing dogs.