Village hires county to run local elections

CHATHAM–The Village Board has voted to transfer the responsibilities for village elections from the village clerk to the county Board of Elections. The decision was made at the board’s regular meeting Thursday, August 8.

The board held a public hearing on the matter before the start of the regular meeting, though few residents attended.

County Democratic Elections Commissioner Virginia Martin, who was there to answer questions, said the county conducts many elections, but none until now has been handled for the county’s villages. She said the Village of Chatham could still hold elections at the Tracy Memorial in March but current poll inspectors would have to be trained by the county.

“It’s a very good, safe, transparent process,” she said at the meeting. The county would also supply the recently adopted optical scanner voting machines for use in the village and would count the votes the night of the election at the Tracy.

The county will charge a flat fee of $1,500 for use of the machines, the ballots, administrative work done at the county level and for publicity. There would also be an hourly rate for poll inspectors and other expanses on the day of the election. A memo from the county Board of Elections to Mayor Tom Curran stated that the total for an election could range from $2,500 to $2,800.

Mayor Curran said that the board has determined that with the time spent by the clerk to run the election the process costs the village close to the $1,500 cost charged by the county. He also emphasized transparency, saying that using the Board of Elections instead of the clerk, an appointed position, avoids any concern that a village clerk might have a stake in the outcome of an election. He added that the current clerk serves in a part-time capacity while past clerks have been full time village employees.

Board member Jay Rippel was the only board member in attendance who voted against the change. While he said of the switch to county control of elections, “There are some pros to having it here,” he brought up absentee ballots, which will have to be picked up at the county Board of Elections office at the county office building in Hudson or be mailed to residents who request them. And he said, “We are taking that local feel to the elections and taking it away.”

The board’s vote means that the county will run the next annual village election in March 2014.

Also at last week’s meeting, the board:

Accepted a bid of $72,370 from Brunswick Electric in Troy for the Kline Kill power upgrades, which includes a new generator and new power lines for the pump station

Signed a collective bargaining agreement with the Civil Service Employee Association (CSEA) bargaining unit, which includes raises for police officers and the water treatment operator of $2 an hour; the agreement also makes changes in the holiday schedule. Village administrator Barbara Henry assured the board that CSEA had agreed to everything in the agreement the union needs only to have the local members of the union sign off on it

Discussed a letter from the village Planning Board about receiving applications for permits on buildings after the construction had already been done and enforcement in those cases. “I’m going to direct the attorney to let it go through the process,” Mayor Curran said about fines and court proceedings

Heard that there is progress toward installing a barrier up and having parking spaces for permit holders between the CSX train tracks and the buildings on the east side of Main Street. The mayor said he is contacting contractors about performing the work. During the weekend following the regular board meeting the board announced that it would hold a special meeting to approve a grant application prepared by the Columbia Land Conservancy for permeable pavement at the lot.

Announced that the board will hold a special meeting Thursday, August 22 at 7:30 p.m. to discuss hiring a company to look at the erosion of the water tower.

Information about village meetings will now be posted on the village’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Village-of-Chatham-NY.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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