NL councilman objects to email in his name

NEW LEBANON—Board Member Bruce Baldwin wants New Lebanon residents to know he didn’t send that letter.

The mostly uneventful November 11 meeting ended with Mr. Baldwin raising the issue of “a couple of e-mails” circulated by Supervisor Michael Benson. Mr. Baldwin said that his name was on e-mails that he had neither seen nor approved, which he felt “implied that the entire town board was in on the emails.”

The e-mail that prompted Mr. Baldwin to raise the issue is a one-page flyer with a header that reads, “An Important Message from Michael Benson, New Lebanon Town Supervisor.” This is followed by five sections, titled: The Facts, Real Needs, Moving Forward, Next Town Budget Meeting, and Email. Mr. Baldwin’s email address is listed in the Email section, along with those of all other Town Board members.

The Facts begins with some basic statistics about Columbia County and New Lebanon. It goes on to say the following, listed as bullet points: “At a staggering 3.59% per thousand New Lebanon has the HIGHEST tax rate of ANY town in Columbia County. Our $1.8 Million annual budget is the size of towns with TRIPLE our population. New Lebanon’s annual Town Hall salaries are a WHOPPING $75 per resident per year. THE HIGHEST IN THE COUNTY in spite of our low population. The cost of running certain departments within our Town Hall are TOO HIGH and many want more! Double digit percentages in some cases!”

Real Needs lists the “vital services,” that Mr. Benson believes the town must “preserve”—despite what he feels are excessive taxes. These include: infrastructure, plowing, fire and ambulance services, and “services to our children and our senior population.”

Points under Moving Forward say: “Meeting the NYS 2% Tax Cap is critical. Resident involvement is vital. Out Town Board needs to know what our residents want.”

The end of the flyer lists the date of a town budget meeting, and then lists the email addresses of all of the members of the Town Board.

Mr. Baldwin acknowledged that sending out the flyer was Mr. Benson’s privilege as supervisor, but seemed concerned about the confusion caused by having other board members’ names on an email that came only from Mr. Benson. “Many people that responded assumed that this was a Town Board message,” said Mr. Baldwin.

Mr. Baldwin also noted that he was out of the country when that Mr. Benson sent this flyer. He asked Mr. Benson if the rest of the Board had been aware of the email. “Yes,” said Mr. Benson. “Some were.”

Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Benson both noted that this flyer had generated a lot of responses from town residents. “There were opinions on all sorts of sides,” said Mr. Baldwin. “In past administrations, we would publish those [responses],” Mr. Baldwin said.

“I would be happy to post those emails” to the town website, Mr. Benson said.

The public hearing for the preliminary 2015 budget will be held Thursday, November 13 at the Town Hall.

In other business this week the board:

  • Decided to start advertising for appointed positions on the Planning, Zoning, and Ethics boards. Town Board Member Chuck Geraldi asked if the Town Board could contact people who had applied for positions on these boards last year. “We had a lot of applicants for Planning and Zoning last year,” Mr. Geraldi said. “We had a lot of good applicants.”

Mr. Benson said that the Town Board would “call those people and ask if they’re still interested.” The Town Board requested that anybody interested in positions on the three boards submit applications by December 5

  • Heard a request from Resident Judy Zimmer that a discussion about the proposed Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline be added to the agenda for the December Board Meeting.

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