HILLSDALE—Discussion continued at the July 15 Town Board meeting about whether the cost of plowing certain roads, parking lots and sidewalks should come out of the Highway Department budget or the town general fund.
Board Member Steve Tiger gave a presentation on the recommendations from a recent meeting about the issue. “Everybody at the meeting agreed that all these things are beneficial to the town and should be done,” he said. Mr. Tiger mentioned Local Law 32, which says that if the Town Board requests the highway superintendent to perform certain duties, the superintendent must comply.
But board members generally agreed that costs should come out of the general fund if the board asks the superintendent “to do things that are above and beyond his responsibility,” as Supervisor Art Baer put it. The question at hand was whether plowing these particular areas was above and beyond this responsibility.
Board member Carmen Barbato once again asked about $32,000 that had been set aside in a different account to pay for projects that are not part of the highway superintendent’s responsibilities, questioning why the money had come out of the Highway Department budget managed by Highway Superintendent Richard Briggs.
Mr. Baer replied that the money had not come from the highway budget. “It was part of the budget process,” he said.
The board took no action on the matter but plans to consider recommendations for how to address the issue in the 2015 budget that must be adopted this fall.
In other business, Housing Committee Chair Ellen Levy discussed the affordable housing plan. The committee received a $5,000 grant from the Dyson Foundation to study the housing needs of town residents, and came to the conclusion was that “there’s what’s called an affordability gap,” Ms. Levy said. Median housing prices do not line up with median incomes.
“We strengthened the Accessory Housing Law,” she said, but no accessory housing has been built yet.
Ms. Levy said that part of the problem of affordable housing is that people are not aware of the programs available to offset the cost of housing. To help bring visibility to some of these programs, the committee will host a Housing Fair October 18 at the firehouse. There will be three panels, including one about taxes. This panel will show people “what you can avail yourself of,” Ms. Levy said.
“If they hear something on the panels that might benefit them, they can go right outside” to tables where they can talk with representatives from state and county organizations,” she said.
Also this week the board:
•Heard a request from Superintendent Briggs for information about the town’s hiring policy. “There was a question in the past of if I’ve followed the hiring policy,” he said. Mr. Briggs noted that he was asking because a highway employee had recently left for Copake “because of a $3 an hour pay raise.”
Mr. Baer said that the issue was more complicated because Hillsdale provides “a benefit” for its employees that other towns do not provide.
When the discussion began to move towards impending negotiations between the town and the union for highway employees, Mr. Baer told Mr. Briggs, “You are not negotiating on behalf of the union. You’re management. You’re on our side of the table.”
Mr. Tiger added, “You don’t represent the union and you don’t represent the workers.”
•Learned from Mr. Baer that “The summer program is in full swing and fully booked.”
•Heard that the Farmers’ Market has begun to accept food stamps. The July 5 Farmers’ Market had a record attendance of 760 people. At future Farmers’ Markets there will be a community table
•Adopted a local law expanding the number of seats on the Board of Assessment from three to five. The town will now advertise for people to fill these seats
•Authorized the supervisor to execute necessary agreements pertaining to a large-scale sidewalk renovation plan
•Heard that the State Comptroller’s Office is auditing selected town operations. When asked how long the auditing process would take, Town Clerk Ruth Dodds said, “Based on what they’re doing, they’ll be here for a long time.”
•Discussed with Mr. Briggs how to deal with households that are not properly maintaining their driveways, causing gravel and other debris to wash onto town roads during heavy rains. Mr. Baer suggested writing letters to the homeowners and said he believed it would be difficult to take legal action. When others continued to suggest that legal action could be an option, Mr. Baer said the town would request an opinion from Town Attorney Richard Alford. He said that would cost the town $175.