Claverack keeps budget in check, eyes crowd controls

CLAVERACK–The Town Board approved its 2014 budget of almost $2.3 million last week. The board also held a public hearing regarding the proposed law that would regulate concerts, exhibitions and festivals.

The new budget amounts to $2,289,512, with $1,075,804 in the General Fund and $1,213,708 in the Highway Fund. This is an increase of $5,591 from the current year’s spending plan.

“Everything basically stayed the same,” said Town Supervisor Robin Andrews, adding, “There were no fun surprises this year of anything going down, which sometimes happens.”

She said that in addition to increases in health insurance costs, the court has needed more clerical help because of increased activity and regulations within the court’s jurisdiction. Full-time hourly employees of the town will be receiving a 2% pay raise. No elected officials will get a raise.

The total amount to be raised by taxes in 2014 will be $601,052, an increase of $9,971, meaning a rise of 1.66% in the tax levy. The town projects $1,365,960 in revenues and will use $322,500 from its fund balance to balance the budget.

All members of the board present voted in favor of the budget. Board member and Supervisor-elect Cliff Weigelt was absent.

The other major matter to come before the board November 14 was the proposal for the proposed mass gathering law. Councilwoman Katy Cashen said the idea to amend the zoning code came after the town’s experience with The Big Up, a three-day music and arts festival held in town last summer.

“The Planning Board did a very good job of monitoring and setting up conditions for the event,” she said. “But rather than having them do that every year without a zoning code to back them up, we decided to move forward with having our own law.”

Ms. Cashen said similar laws from nearby towns were used as references for creating Claverack’s draft. Ghent’s law, used as a model for Claverack’s draft, was adopted by last summer.

The new law would require that an event of more than a thousand people must first have a permit approved by the Planning Board. No more than two events could be held at any one site within one calendar year. Applicants must notify fire, police and emergency agencies, and must submit site plans and safety plans. Applicant must also provide the estimated number of attendees and the number of vehicles expected.

The proposal states that applicants must provide “documentation showing adequate measures have been taken in connection with fire protection, crowd security, police protection, public safety, traffic regulation, parking, sanitary facilities, adequate water supply, garbage disposal, emergency evacuation plan, first aid and site cleanup.” Fireworks are not permitted at the events, nor are smoke or gases. The maximum duration of any one event permitted under the proposed law is three-days. Local officials must be permitted to enter and inspect the premises prior and during the event. Structures erected for the event must be removed within 72 hours of the event’s conclusion.

If an applicant fails to adhere to any of the conditions or regulations, the Planning Board may deny that applicant during permit requests for future events.

The Planning Board has the authority to set the hours and maximum decibel levels for events, and a couple of attendees at last week’s hearing expressed concern over the absence in the proposal of set hours and decibel levels.

“I think it’s logical for people to expect to be able to go to bed at 10 at night,” said one resident. “Why not have something normal set for people to expect?”

Ms. Cashen said that each event is different, adding that a rock festival may require conditions that are different from a Renaissance fair.

Planning Board member Gretchen Stearns said a lot of feedback from the neighbors of the Big Up event was considered as the proposal was drafted. “I think this is a good start,” she said. “I think it can be tweaked here and there. I’d like to see the flexibility.”

Ms. Cashen read aloud a letter the town received from two neighbors of the Big Up site. The letter writers, Joe Bake and Stuart Thompson, wrote that they support the proposed law, saying, “We believe this law will properly balance the interests of event promoters and landowners.”

Ms. Stearns added that this law does not apply to events staged by the town of by fire companies. Ms. Cashen also said the law does not regulate private parties, such as weddings.

The proposal must still be reviewed by the county Planning Board. The public hearing will remain open for another month, said Ms. Cashen.

Supervisor Andrews added that the board also needs to discuss penalties for failure to comply with the new law.

She said that when the proposal is approved, any pending applications for events will be subject to the new law.

The proposed law can be viewed online at www.townofclaverack.com.

Also at the November 14 meeting, the board:

*Heard Historic Preservation Advisory Committee Chair Ian Nitschke say that there will be a commemoration of a Claverack postage stamp December 5 as part of the town’s ongoing celebration of its 225th anniversary. The date 12/5/13 was chosen due to the Zip Code for the Hamlet of Claverack–12513. Mr. Nitschke said there will be 225 customized Claverack stamps available, and the commemoration will be held at the Claverack Post Office at 3 p.m. Following that, there will be a reading of The Night Before Christmas “around twilight.” Town historian Jean LaPorta said residents interested in attending could check the town’s website to find the location of the reading and a calendar of future events.

*Approved a bond resolution that refinances bonds issued for construction of the highway garage. Supervisor Andrews said the rate will decrease from 5% to 2.99%, saving the town $85,000 over the next 8 years.

*Approved a new personnel policy for all town employees.

* Approved a resolution authorizing Supervisor Andrews to sign a mutual aid agreement with the Village of Philmont to use Philmont Police Officers for court security.

 

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