ANCRAM–“It’ll be a hot time, in the old town, tonight,” so the song goes. And it was a hot time at the old November 18 Town Board meeting.
The heat wasn’t generated by anyone’s cow kicking over a lantern, the board’s adoption of the 2011 status quo budget or by any governmental issue at all. It was a direct result of the chili cook-off, hosted by the Ancram Youth Commission in the hallway outside the meeting room.
Eager chili and cornbread consumers started their taste buds a-tingling at 5:30 p.m. Partaking of the fiery concoctions continued during and in-between three public hearings on: a new dog licensing law at 6 p.m.; a new ethics law at 6:15 p.m. and a new wind turbine law at 6:30 p.m.
Jack Lindsey, chair of the committee that developed the proposed ethics law, said it would act as a deterrent, is preventative rather than punitive and gives the town the framework for dealing with possible ethics violations. Matters involving criminal activity can be referred to the proper authorities.
Zoning Revision Committee Chair Hugh Clark talked about the wind turbine law and his committee’s work on it with the town’s Comprehensive Plan as a backdrop.
Mr. Clark said that the proposed law calls for each wind turbine case to come before the Planning Board for review. Town Supervisor Art Bassin said he received a note from the Zoning Board of Appeals, suggesting that the law be modified to eliminate the site plan review and that the town’s building inspector be authorized to determine whether each wind turbine application is suitable and can go forward without board review. Sue Bassin, who serves on the ZBA, pointed out that the installation of a wind turbine is a permitted use whether or not a special use permit is required.
The board ultimately decided to hold off adoption of the turbine law until the county Planning Board weighs in on it.
The Town Board adopted both ethics law and the dog licensing law, which outlines procedures and fees for the issuance of dog licenses by the town instead of the state.
The 2011 budget was also adopted. The tax rate per $1,000 assessed value is lowered by one cent under the new spending plan, from $2.71 to $2.70, a decrease of .37%. The amount to be raised by taxes is essentially flat from this year to next, falling slightly from $928,200 to $927,675, a .06% decrease.
Spending in the general fund is up by 20% from $517,625 this year to $620,225 next year primarily due to a $92,000 payment on the $400,000 highway garage loan, according to Mr. Bassin. It’s a 10-year loan, but the board decided to pay down the debt on an accelerated basis next year. If all goes well, the town may have the loan paid off in five years.
Highway fund spending is down by 6.3% next year from $869,525 to $814,000.
On paper, estimated revenues seem to be up substantially next year, by 36% on the general fund line and .8% in the highway fund.
Mr. Bassin said that the revenues for next year are actually about the same as this year. The difference appears to be large, about $91,000, because revenues as they appear on the 2010 budget were severely underestimated.
The 2011 budget also has a $40,000 contingency fund built in to use for unforeseen expenses. “It’s money we do not know how we will use, but it gives us flexibility” and a cushion if revenues are off, Mr. Bassin said. If the money is not spent, it can be used in the fund balance to offset taxes in the future.
The board voted unanimously to adopt the 2011 budget, Councilman John MacArthur was absent.
About mid-way through the meeting, Town Youth Commission member Ruth Wittlinger announced that the chili prepared by Colleen Lutz had won a majority of the contest votes. Mrs. Lutz, it turns out, has decided to accept chairmanship of the Planning Board when Don MacLean retires at the end of the year.
Other chili makers were Mrs. Wittlinger and Mr. Bassin. Mr. Wittlinger suggested that Mr. Bassin’s chili may have come from a Hormell can, but the supervisor assured The Columbia Paper in a subsequent phone interview that the chili was made with venison from a deer he shot.
Mrs. Wittlinger explained that the inspiration for the chili cook-off comes in an effort to build anticipation for the town’s 2011 Community Day, which is already in the planning stages. The event will be moved to September 17 next year and will include numerous baking or cooking contests.
A greased-pig wrangling contest was also suggested as a community day activity that may prove safer than a tractor pull.