Chatham hears stirrings of economic strategy

CHATHAM–The Village Board hired a new lawyer and promoted two police offers to the rank of corporal at the regular meeting November 13. The board also held a special meeting Wednesday, November 19 to discuss benefits for part-time employees.

At the November 13 meeting, the board started a discussion with Tom Chulak, president of the Chatham Area Business Alliance (CABA), about economic and community development in the greater Chatham area. Mr. Chulak said that throughout the year, he and Chatham Mayor Tom Curran have met with supervisors from Chatham, Ghent, Austerlitz and Spencertown, as well as members of the county’s Economic Development Corporation, the Chamber of Commerce and the superintendent of the Chatham School District about forming a Chatham Area Economic Development Team to come up with a strategic plan for helping businesses in the area and attracting new ones.

In Chatham and the surrounding area, Mr. Chulak told the board, “You can’t really separate the community development from the economic development.” He said the group, which has met a few times, decided that the Village of Chatham was the area’s heart. He also talked about funding the committee, saying that if it was run only by volunteers it wouldn’t go very far.

The three board members who attended the meeting said they would be interested in moving forward with a committee. “The issue is finding the money,” village Board member Lenore Packet said. She suggested funding could come not just from the village but from the surrounding towns and communities.

Board member Jay Rippel asked about funding from the county and Mr. Chulak said there are small amounts of money available but there is funding from the state and private donations.

Mr. Chulak said that the committee was just the beginning of the process. “We’ll just take it one step a time,” he told the board.

“The village is in a good position to be able to support something like this,” said Mayor Curran.

The November 13 meeting also included the appointment of police officers Jason Falkner and Brandon Goold to the rank of corporal, with a $1/hour pay increase. Police Chief Peter Volkmann asked for the promotions, saying that the officers would both be very helpful with administrative needs in the department. All the police officers in the village, including Chief Volkmann, are part time.

During an executive session, which is closed to the public, the board hired Ken Dow, a village resident, as village attorney.

Board members also awarded Pat Prendergast the water engineering study contract for $12,500. Mr. Prendergast is the village engineer. The decision was made after the issued board a request for proposals to examine at the village water system.

The board hired Gretchen Brown as deputy clerk for $15 an hour for 30 hours per week.

Mayor Curran announced during the regular meeting that Public Works Manager Mike Losa is retiring in January and the board will need to find a replacement for him. He said the board needed to discuss hiring a fulltime or part-time manager. Mr. Losa has worked part time.

At the November 19 meeting Mr. Curran talked about the turnover of employees, saying that some had left to take jobs elsewhere with benefits. Board members agreed to look at costs for paying part of the health benefits for non-union employee. The employees they are discussing include the village clerk, police chief and the deputy clerk, who of whom work fewer than 40 hours a week.

“We need to be competitive to keep the employees we have,” said Mayor Curran of adding the health benefits.

Board decided they need more time to discuss how much they will pay for benefits and how much they will ask the employees to contribute. The topic will be on the agenda for the next board meeting.

The next regular meeting is Thursday, December 11 at 7 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .  

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