Chatham takes new look at old laws

CHATHAM–A new town ethics law may soon be on the books in the town.

The current code was enacted in the 1970s and is “way outdated,” according to Town Attorney Tal Rappelyea. In discussions at the March 15 town board meeting, the board decided to look to a new Columbia County ethics law for guidance.

“It seems we should copy the county law, rather than re-invent the wheel,” said Town Supervisor Jesse DeGroodt.

The rest of the board concurred with Mr. DeGroodt. The new ethics code will include a list of town officials required to comply with the law, said Mr. Rappelyea.

The town is also planning to update another ’70s-era law that formed a Conservation Advisory Council. “It’s a group the town can call on by local law to help with environmental issues,” said Mr. Rappelyea after the meeting.

As part of the process for updating the Conservation Advisory Council code, the board will hold a public hearing at its next meeting April 19 at 7 p.m. to give the local residents an opportunity to comment on the proposed council.

Even though the law has existed for about 40 years, a committee was never appointed. Mr. Rappelyea said it makes sense to have the council available now, since the town recently updated its comprehensive plan and zoning regulations.

Meanwhile, the board picked up on its prior discussion in January about town communication. A Communications Committee was formed at the time which includes town council members Bob Balcom and Maria Lull. Mr. Balcom said the committee was looking for more direction from the full board about what area to tackle first.

“I might suggest we start with the website,” said Mr. DeGroodt, who said he designed the website eight years ago. He said the current website code has been edited and changed so many times that “a complete redesign would be a great start. We need to start over.”

There was discussion as to whether to contract with an outside service or attempt to revise the website internally. Mr. DeGroodt suggested having the clerk’s office work on the project.

During the public comment section of the meeting, town resident Benjamin Nagy introduced himself to the board as a new member of the community, having recently moved to Old Chatham. Mr. Nagy, who lives near the center of the Old Chatham hamlet, said he’s dealt with severe flooding in his house in the first two months he’s lived there. He asked the board to examine the nearby roads and bridges, which he believes may contribute to the problems.

“It’s become a liability issue for the town in my opinion,” said Mr. Nagy. “The flooding has washed away part of the road, and the Route 13 bridge is starting to show wear.”

Mr. DeGroodt said the town is very much aware of the issues in Old Chatham, which he called “enormously complex.”

“I’ll be glad to sit down with you, along with the highway superintendent, Joe Rickert, and bring you up to speed,” said Mr. DeGroodt.

In other business, the board unanimously approved two resolutions:

*To accept bids for highway department materials and equipment for the period April 1, 2012 through March 31, 2013

*To allow the highway superintendent to purchase tools and/or miscellaneous garage equipment from auctions, not to exceed $5,000. Mr. DeGroodt said this money is already budgeted because all sales of town equipment “go directly into that line item.”

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