COPAKE–Attorney Jeanne E. Mettler is the newest member of the Copake Town Board.
She fills the seat left vacant by the resignation of Councilman Bob Sacks, a Democrat, who announced earlier this month that he was leaving the board because “the ongoing pressures of my business and the pending move have made my attendance at the many town meetings impossible for me to keep up with.” Mr. Sacks announced in February that he and his wife, Carol, planned to sell their house in Taconic Shores and move to Charlottesville, VA, sometime in the next year to be closer to their grandchildren.
At its April 12 meeting, the Town Board accepted Mr. Sacks’ resignation, and Supervisor Jeff Nayer thanked the councilman, who was not present, for his “six years of dedicated service.”
The supervisor told his colleagues that they had three options for dealing with the vacated seat: hold a special election at some financial cost to the town; leave the seat open and wait for it to be filled at the next election in November; or appoint someone to fill the seat temporarily until the next election.
He then suggested that the board appoint Ms. Mettler, his deputy supervisor, who has been working closely with the board since the beginning of the year. He characterized Ms. Mettler as “a fair and impartial” person whose presence on the board would be helpful going forward with the Land Use Review Committee and as the town “ramps up on the Comprehensive Plan.”
The board voted unanimously in favor of the appointment.
Inviting Ms. Mettler to take her seat on the board, the supervisor said, “Welcome to the fire, Jeanne.”
Councilwoman Mettler, an enrolled Democrat, served as chair of Copake’s Comprehensive Plan Committee from 2008 to 2011. She has a law office in Copake and specializes in criminal defense. A native of Copake Falls, Ms. Mettler moved to Westchester County to practice law in 1978. She graduated from Roeliff Jansen Central School in 1970 and is a 1977 graduate of the Rutgers School of Law-Camden and holds a BA from Marymount College in Tarrytown. She took a hiatus from the practice of law to become a New York City Teaching Fellow in 2002. She received a master’s in teaching from the Fordham University Graduate School of Education and taught for three years at Harry S. Truman High School in the Bronx.
Asked to comment on her appointment following the meeting, Ms. Mettler said she considers the action “an acknowledgement of the Comprehensive Plan Committee and all that group accomplished. I look forward to working with the rest of the board to help implement the goals of the Comprehensive Plan for the betterment of Copake.” Ms. Mettler will have to run this November to retain the seat. The term expires at the end of 2013.
In other business, the Town Board:
*Heard from Roeliff Jansen Community Library Board of Directors President Howard VanLenten about what’s going on at the library. Mr. VanLenten said since the opening of the new library on Route 22 in Copake, library visits have increased from 1,000 to 5,000/month. The new library is open 47 hours/week and 800 new cardholders have been added. Among the most pressing challenges the library faces is to maintain its relevance to the lives of people in the community. In the coming weeks the library will conduct focus group meetings to determine how the library should allocate its resources. Another challenge is to maintain a sound financial foundation. He said state aid to libraries has been cut by 23%, while use has increased by 100%. He reminded the public that the library belongs to everyone.
*Heard from Around the Clock Committee member Mike Peschel that the group plans to fix up the bulletin board near the old general store, put in a park bench and make a “nice little green area where someone can sit down and read a newspaper.” The group also presented ideas about plans it would like to implement near the hamlet fire pond that proved to be of concern to the board. In response to the group’s suggestions to install horseshoe pits, a sandbox and a bicycle rack there, Supervisor Nayer said he was not in favor of doing anything until he consulted with Fire Department officials, because the pond was originally given to the town specifically for use as a water source in the event of fire in the hamlet. Town Attorney Ken Dow said that to install a sandbox would be an invitation to little kids to play near the pond and that would “invite a whole different level of liability” for the town. Mr. Peschel responded that the sandboxes were just “a throw-away idea” and that the board was “overcomplicating” the matter. He said the more important idea was to create “little oases” where people might enjoy some “camaraderie” in spots that “they don’t have now.”
*Heard from Attorney Dow about the technicalities and difficulties involved in liquidating the town police department. He said evidence, illegal contraband and weapons, for example, cannot be handled by “a non-police officer.” So, arrangements have had to be made with the Sheriff’s Office and State Police to handle those items so as not to disrupt the chain of custody or put anyone at risk. “Handguns and shotguns have to be held by the right people,” said Mr. Dow. Equipment that was purchased with grant money has to be returned to the grant providers. Some items, like the mobile speed zone sign and portable radios will go to the Highway Department, while files and office equipment will be stored in a client/attorney conference room at the town hall. The best of the four police vehicles will be kept for town use, while the remaining vehicles and guns will be declared surplus and auctioned off. Lindsey LeBrecht again asked what the board planned to do about the petitions bearing hundreds of signatures demanding a re-vote on reinstatement of the Police Department. Mr. Nayer, as he has done at prior meetings, explained that there can be no re-vote and a new Police Department cannot be created except by a board resolution and no board member has brought such a resolution forth.