Between howls from the audience and heated arguments from Supervisor Mark Lesko and Highway Superintendent John Rouse, the town board eventually approved a $260 million budget for 2011, Thursday night at Brookhaven Town Hall.
Six town highway department workers will be laid off, significantly less than the 68 Lesko originally proposed, and the town reached an agreement with its white-collar and blue-collar unions, "resulting in considerable savings," Lesko said.
The highway department initially voted down an agreement with the town, and town officials, after two breaks in a meeting filled with theater-like antics from audience members and politicians, eventually eliminated four mechanics and two heavy equipment operators from the budget.
"It's not easy," Lesko said. "I never wanted to be in this situation."
Originally, Lesko proposed to layoff highway supervisors, looking to trim hundreds of thousands in salaries.
Rouse, speaking for his people, defended the supervisors, who Lesko fingered as not being out in the field with the workers at the bottom of the totem pole.
"They're called management, but they get into work with their jeans and work boots," Rouse said, "and get into the trenches and work side-by-side with the others. I can't run a highway department without my supervisors."
As the crowd's moans grew more reminiscent of a scene at a British Parliament session, Lesko stopped multiple times and said people would be removed for unruly behavior. It didn't matter, the hostile environment grew angrier as Rouse and Lesko exchanged verbal blows.
Lesko said the Holtsville and Centereach pools, a hot button budget item that was on the chopping block, will remain open thanks to the union agreements.