Hello, Ancram? Hello… hello…

ANCRAM—Maybe it’s a Christmas miracle… the phones in Town Hall are working, (cross your fingers), again.

From dog kennels to subdivision regulations, swimming pools to propane, topics of discussion were as varied as an assortment of Christmas cookies at the brief but busy, December 18 Town Board meeting.

One intriguing conversation involved the erratic behavior of the phone and heating systems at the Town Hall.

Town Clerk Monica Cleveland said the “phone guy” had been there but she wasn’t convinced the problems had been fixed. Mrs. Cleveland said she and other town officials were not receiving voice mail messages people claimed they left; the Town Hall’s fax and Internet work only intermittently and one day all the phones in the building began ringing at the same time.

Mrs. Cleveland said she had a sneaking suspicion that the phone system was “possessed” as a result of the place being struck by lightning some time ago.

Supervisor Art Bassin vowed to seek the services of a “telephone exorcist” to remedy the situation.

And though the heat was turned on in the main meeting room that night, the chill in the air did not correspond to the toasty temperature at which the thermostat was set.

In a follow-up phone call this week, Supervisor Bassin said Tim from the telephone company came on Monday, diagnosed the symptoms and fixed the phones. Mr. Bassin said the problem involved the system’s surge protector and the back-up battery for the computer system that runs the telephones. In short, the telephone system was plugged in to the wrong place.

In a subsequent townwide email, Mr. Bassin explained that in addition to the plug debacle, the Central Processing Unit (CPU) battery, which is supposed to protect phone system programming, was dead and consequently, every time the power went out the phone system wouldn’t work and the programming was lost.

Mr. Bassin said Tim discovered 28 messages for the building department hidden within the system and also ascribed the simultaneous ringing of all phones not to demonic possession but to a something called “the operator referral button,” which he fixed by shutting it off.

Tim, said the supervisor, was able to demystify all the “freaky things going on” and concluded the Town Hall does not need a new phone system.

As for the heating system prognosis, that remains to be seen.

In other business:

*Deputy Court Clerk Colleen Lutz said that $10,000 in unpaid court fines have so far been collected through the efforts of Court Clerk Ruth Wittlinger who discovered a treasure trove of unanswered traffic tickets when she decided to clean out a closet at Town Hall

*Town Clerk Cleveland said that 15 more dogs have been licensed since last month, including dogs owned by three part-time residents; one of the licenses even has the dog’s “pug shot”

*Gerry Fultz, who serves on the town’s Financial Advisory Council (FAC) and is the town’s grant coordinator, reported that the FAC is studying how best to deal with the town’s aging public pool. In March, the FAC expects to make a recommendation based on pros, cons and costs about whether to repair and renovate the existing pool or build a new pool near Town Hall.

Mr. Fultz also spoke about the $30,000 grant the town has received from the state for a sewer study in the Ancram hamlet. He and others will define the scope of the work the grant will cover so as not to duplicate work already done

*The town’s costs for employee health coverage will go from $52,000 to $56,000 next year, while the town’s risk allowance will decrease from $14,000 to $10,000. The decrease is the difference between $1,500, which is the out-of-pocket responsibility of the employee, and $3,000, which is when the insurance policy takes over, said Mr. Bassin.

*Supervisor Bassin was authorized to contract with the Columbia-Greene Humane Society and others to provide shelter accommodations for lost dogs. The town hopes to find local residents who have appropriate facilities to temporarily house a dog until its owner is found in order to avoid incurring a $305 fee at the humane society each time a dog is kept there for more than 24 hours. The town incurred $1,600 in fees this year

*Mrs. Cleveland said that so far five or six residents have entered the town’s new Christmas Light Extravaganza Contest. The light show winner will receive an as yet undetermined prize at the town’s potluck dinner at 6 p.m. January 5 at Town Hall. Town Highway Superintendent Jim MacArthur, a committee of one, will make the rounds and judge the contest. Mr. MacArthur noted that “bribing is allowed” and “the bigger the better.” At the end of the meeting he reminded everyone they could pay him on their way out.

The January 5 potluck will be followed by the year-end and organization meetings.

To contact Diane Valden email


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