Niagara Gazette

Local News

December 16, 2012

Salary cuts may drive off city engineer, administrator

Niagara Gazette — City Engineer Jeffrey Skurka is looking for a new job.

Skurka and City Administrator Donna Owens were the only two members of Mayor Paul Dyster’s administration to have their salaries cut by city council amendments to the mayor’s proposed budget for 2013. They are also the two members of his administration who are most often called in front of the council to explain the status of various projects.

“I feel this is all retaliatory treatment,” Skurka said.

Next year, Skurka’s salary will be cut from $96,000 to $78,000. Owens’ salary will fall by 37 percent, from $110,000 to $70,000. The council attempted to cut the salaries of Skurka and Owens by $20,000 each last year through budget amendments, but failed to garner the necessary votes to override Dyster’s vetoes.

Owens has declined to comment on her salary cut.

Skurka — who earned his engineering degree from Rutgers University and has over 15 years of industry experience under his belt — said some members of the council have targeted him because he has questioned requests they have made of him and that they have used their position as council members to publicly scold him at council meetings.

The harassment of the council coupled with a substantial pay cut have caused Skurka to begin looking for a new job, possibly in another field.

“I’m certainly looking for other opportunities,” he said.

Skurka said that pressures from the council to do things that go against the ethical principles of sound engineering have been causing him health problems — anxiety attacks, high blood pressure — and those pressures have him very ready to move on from the job. 

When Skurka saw the city job advertised in the paper he thought that he had found his dream job, he said.

“But it’s my worst nightmare,” he said.

Skurka said a Pine Avenue pedestrian street light project has been particularly contentious. Council members called for the light after requests came in from business owners on the street. The light — being installed on the 2200 block of Pine Avenue directly in front of the Como Restaurant — is a response to a series of high-profile accidents where pedestrians were hit by cars.

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