Chatham village group edges toward politics

CHATHAM–The group of tax-conscious residents and business owners that coalesced during the preparation of the village budget last spring met earlier this month to discuss village issues and the prospect of backing candidates for village office in the March election.

The group has so far not adopted a name or specific platform, although participants did present a series of public forums on local governance and have remained in touch by email.

 

The November 14 meeting was chaired by Michael Richardson, a Kinderhook Street resident and a consultant to municipalities around the state. The first topic on his agenda was research about whether the village needs its own assessor when the Towns of Chatham and Ghent each have assessors who could set property values in the village. The Village of Chatham straddles the boundary between the Towns Chatham and Ghent.

Georgene Gardner said her preliminary research showed that a majority of villages she contacted rely on town assessors, and she cited examples she had found. (The issue of the village assessor came up at last week’s Village Board meeting; see story elsewhere in this edition.)

The cost of the Police Department and whether taxpayers can afford it or can be safe without it are long simmering debates in the village. Dave O’Connor, a member of the Chatham Board of Education, said he hoped the group would focus on “good government.” He questioned some of the activities of police and briefly described what he said are “disparities” in assessments of similar businesses.

No members of town government were among the approximately 20 people attending the meeting, so there was no one to respond directly to statements about the cost and efficiency of police and other village services, including water and sewer and the clerk’s office.

Mr. Richardson urged the group to conduct detailed research and create a white paper, which he dubbed “Blueprint for a Budget.” He said that document would provide facts and proposals for a leaner village budget.  A number of people volunteered to work on that project with him.

But property owner Rusty Vasac was skeptical about the value of the document. “If it’s 23 pages, it’s going to get thrown in the garbage.”

A short while later the group adjourned into a private session to discuss identifying and recruiting candidates willing to run for office in March when the seats of the mayor and two village trustees will be up for election.

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