HILLSDALE—This week’s meeting of the Hillsdale Town Board was dominated by a discussion between Highway Superintendent Richard Briggs and several members of the board. At issue was whether the highway budget included the costs of ice and snow removal from sidewalks, municipal parking lots, and key access roads in the town, like the road to the sewage treatment plant.
Mr. Briggs, who oversees the highway budget, contended that the costs should be reimbursed from the town’s general fund. “I specifically have a budget that I beg for every year for roads, not for town hall sidewalks or parking lots,” Mr. Briggs said.
The debate centered on whether the board should sign a document that, according to board member Steve Tiger, “freezes” Mr. Briggs’ responsibility to maintaining only roads listed in the document. Mr. Tiger went on to say, “We want to asterisk some of these conditions.”
The document used language from a state law listing the responsibilities of the highway superintendent. The law does not include sidewalks, parking lots or any roads that are not listed as part of the 76.6 miles of town roadways in Hillsdale. Town Supervisor Art Baer expressed a desire to change the language of the document so that it referred more generally to roads and highways in Hillsdale, rather than specifying the 76.6 miles.
But Ken Dow, an attorney hired by Mr. Briggs, told the board at the May 20 meeting that while the board has the authority establish requirements for the highway superintendent “it’s not going to come out of the highway budget.”
Mr. Baer retorted that the law allows the board to modify the requirements and that the roads under discussion have been plowed under the supervision of Mr. Briggs. “I sent the bill for the last two years, it hasn’t been paid, so all I can do is keep track of it.”
Board member August Sena said that he had spoken to an attorney and did and not want to sign the document at this meeting.
Eventually Mr. Tiger made a motion to review the document with town attorney Dick Alford, who was not present, and return to the issue at the next board meeting.
The highway budget will receive $176,686 from the state’s Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Fund (CHIPS), as well as a one-time extreme winter recovery payment of $20,955. “We’ve got to spend the money to get it reimbursed,” said Mr. Briggs.
Mr. Baer said, “It could be used for other things;”
But Mr. Briggs and his attorney said that it could only be used for highways, and that unspent funds would roll over into the next year.
Also at this week’s meeting:
•Board member Jill Sims-Elster said that the Flower Power luncheon raised $12,600 for the second phase of the Hamlet Park playground development
•A representative from the Cancer Services program at the Columbia County Healthcare Consortium said the consortium will provide free screenings for anyone who is uninsured or underinsured, including transportation and navigators to assist people with insurance forms. Nobody will be turned away
•The farmers market opens May 30
•The summer program, which can accommodate about 60 kids but there are only two spots still open
•The board approved cutting down the large pine tree in the center of the hamlet. Mr. Briggs said it would cost $400 or $500. A new tree, a least seven feet tall, will be bought or donated at Christmas
•Ms. Sims-Elster said that she would talk about the problem of people littering around the basketball court with the kids who play there. The board also discussed putting up more security cameras and signs
•Bob Kessler, representing the Green Solutions Committee, discussed the problem of the class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids affecting bee populations. Mr. Baer suggested that the committee “do a survey of farmers in the Town of Hillsdale asking if they use that product,” adding, “If it’s hurting the bees, it’s hurting the farmers”
•A discussion about what to do with brand new 40 mph speed limit signs now that speed limits in the hamlet have been reduced to 35 and 30 mph drew a chorus of voices saying, “Sell them on eBay!”
•A group possibly called the Diamond Rattler Motorcycle Club has moved into the old post office. Some people are concerned about the many motorcycles parked in the street
•The board discussed the possibility of constructing a tourism information kiosk. “Other towns do it,” Mr. Baer said.