SARANAC LAKE - The term of longtime village Trustee John McEneany will come to an end next month, but he may not be leaving village service.
The village Board of Trustees will consider hiring McEneany as a paid fire driver at its meeting tonight. A resolution on the board's agenda would give village Manager John Sweeney the authority to appoint McEneany to the position, provided he passes the necessary civil service test.
McEneany, a 10-year-incumbent, failed to receive the endorsement of village Republicans at the party's Jan. 31 caucus. In a surprise move, the GOP caucus backed newcomer Mark Gillis, who's only lived in the village for six months, along with incumbent Trustee Jeff Branch for the two trustee seats that will be on the March 20 election ballot.
McEneany briefly considered running as an independent before bowing out of the race, saying he didn't want to pull votes away from the Republicans.
Sweeney said McEneany would fill the position vacated by Aaron Donaldson, who took a position with the Saranac Lake Police Department last year. He said the village worked through Franklin County Civil Service to obtain a list of potential candidates for the job, who had to apply by Jan. 29.
"There were seven names on the list who were qualified to take the test: two of which are currently provisionally employed by the village and five others," Sweeney said. "We attempted to contact all five. Four responded. We interviewed them, myself and (Head Fire Driver) Rick Yorkey. We both agreed that John, out of the people we interviewed, was the best qualifed provisional applicant."
Sweeney said McEneany has a commercial driver's license, has knowledge of fire equipment and how it works, and has budget experience. He's also a scuba diver who has some water rescue training, said village Mayor Clyde Rabideau.
Rabideau acknowleged that some village residents might raise questions about the board appointing one of its members to a village job, but he said McEneany "went through the normal channels."
"I understand people will say, 'Well, what's going on?' but he applied for the position," Rabideau said. "I think he was the only local person to apply. I think he's a good, solid candidate and will be a very dedicated and solid fire truck driver."
"He was treated just like anybody else," Sweeney added. "No special preference, no nothing."
McEneany has owned his own contracting business, White Birch Builders, but acknowledged at the GOP caucus that he's gone through "a very tough two-year business cycle." Last year, McEneany faced foreclosure from Franklin County on two properties he owned for failure to pay $40,000 in delinquent taxes dating to 2007. He cited health issues and the impact of the recession on his business as the reason why had hadn't paid his taxes. McEneany was later removed from the county's foreclosure list after he paid the debt using funds from the sale of one of the two properties.
McEneany's potential salary wasn't immediately available. Village Treasurer Paul Ellis said McEneany would be eligible for full benefits, including health insurance. All new village employees are required to pay 20 percent of their health insurance costs, Ellis said.
This isn't the first time a trustee on his way out of office has been picked for a job with the village. Two months after he lost his re-election bid to McEneany in 2002, Sweeney was appointed village manager. He held the post until 2007, when he resigned after he wasn't reappointed by then-Mayor Tom Michael, only to be rehired as manager by the current board in April 2010.
In April 2001, then-mayor and current trustee Tom Catillaz appointed Paul Herrmann as village attorney, just days after Herrmann lost his re-election bid for a third term on the board.
Tonight's village board meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. and will be held in the second floor meeting room of the Harrietstown Town Hall. The full agenda for the meeting is posted online at www.saranaclakeny.gov.