Chatham eyes trimming highway and rec lines

CHATHAM – The Town Board discussed the 2015 budget at the regular meeting last week, reviewing the requests from the Highway and Recreation departments.

Town Supervisor Jessie DeGroodt also announced at the October 16 meeting that the energy company Kinder Morgan is hosting a presentation to discuss the proposed pipeline, which would carry natural gas from the Marcellus shale through the county. The new pipeline would go through properties in Chatham, Canaan and New Lebanon.

The meeting with Kinder Morgan is scheduled for Thursday, October 30 at 4 p.m. Mr. DeGroodt said he did not yet know where the meeting would be held. The proposed gas pipeline would go through 17 properties in Chatham. Residents from the area who formed the Stop Fracked Gas NY group have come to board meetings and attended a special workshop meeting last month. The group has asked the Town Board to write to Kinder Morgan, urging the company not add the proposed new pipeline to the three pipelines that already that run through the town.

The gas in the new pipeline would carry natural gas, much of it from wells in Pennsylvania, where it is extracted by the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking–a process that injects water, sand and chemicals, some of them toxic, deep under the ground to force out large volumes of gas trapped there. Pipeline opponents are particularly concerned about the chemicals used in the fracking process as s well as safety issues associated underground pipelines.

Kinder Morgan representatives and online materials say that gas pipelines are safe and that the proposed pipeline, which would carry gas eastward through New York and Massachusetts, is needed to meet demand in the Northeast and abroad.

As for the budget, the board reviewed the Highway Department numbers at length. Highway Superintendent Joe Rickert said he’d already cut about $15,000 from his budget. Board members then discussed keeping one employee at part-time status though they had budgeted for that position to become full time. That would save the department another $18,000 a year.

“I don’t know where else to cut; I don’t know where else to save,” Mr. Rickert told the board.

The board agreed. Mr. DeGroodt said that with Mr. Rickert’s budget there would still be a 3.3% tax levy increase. Last year’s budget was about $3.6 million.

Where some board members could see cuts being made was in the salary of the town recreation director. Board members Maria Lull and Henry Swartz both felt that the Recreation Director Sheri Franks’ salary of about $41,000 should be cut in half. They discussed checking the salaries paid by other towns for recreation directors and pointed out that the recreation program is a six-week summer camp.

“There is a lot more to it than running a summer program,” Mr. DeGroodt said.

Ms. Franks told the board that she needs at least two months to start planning for the summer program, which involves hiring the councilors and lifeguards, and maintenance at Crellin Park. She also talked about other programs at the park, like the community garden that she has received grants to support events she supervises on town land near Town Hall.

Both Ms. Franks and Mr. DeGroodt agreed that cutting the salary was a possibility in this year’s budget, but Mr. DeGroodt mentioned cutting it to $30,000. Board member Jean Rohde said she thought Ms. Franks did much more than just the summer program and that reducing her salary would mean having to find someone else do the work. She also said that it was part of the town’s master plan to have a recreation program. “What we’re doing now came from the master plan,” Ms. Rohde said.

Board member Bob Balcom was not at the meeting.

Mr. Swartz stressed the need to find cuts in the budget. “We cannot justify $41,000 for the park program,” he said. He asked Ms. Franks for a job description and a breakdown of her hours. Ms. Franks said she would get that information for the board for the next budget meeting.

The board will hold a special budget meeting Monday, October 20 at 7 p.m. The public hearing on the town’s 2015 budget will be held November 6 at 7 p.m.

Also at the meeting the board:

  • Announced an opening for a new member to on the Zoning Implementation Committee (ZIC)
  • Heard from Mr. Rickert that the survey on the Albany Turnpike Bridge in East Chatham is complete and that that the town’s engineering firm should have plans to make the intersection and the bridge safer ready soon for the board to review.
  • Learned from Mr. Rickert that construction had started again on the White Mills Bridge.

The next regular board meeting is November 20 at 7 p.m.

 

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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