Chatham says deputies are for safety, not cash

CHATHAM–The Town Board made a motion at the meeting last week to hire the county Sheriff’s office to conduct the “enhanced patrol” program to stop speeders and other traffic violators on town roads for the rest of this year. The town will pay the Sheriff’s office an hourly rate to add patrols to the local roads.

Councilwoman Landra Haber said at the August 18 meeting that she supported the program because of speeding in the town. “I truly believe in good enforcement of traffic laws,” she said.

There had been discussion at a Town Board meeting in July that having deputies add patrols could also boost revenues for the town, which has been facing a deficit in the 2016 budget.

Other board members spoke at the August meeting in support of the program for the safety issues. Councilman John Wapner said there was no proof that the board would see any additional revenue from the program.

Councilman Henry Swartz, who sits on the county Traffic Safety Board, said that he had talked to county Sheriff Dave Bartlett about the program earlier that day. “He does not support this program as a revenue source for the town,” Mr. Swartz told the board.

The board passed the motion to pay for the enhanced enforcement unanimously.

Board members also discussed budgeting for next year and what may need to be cut to have a balanced 2017 budget. Councilman Bob Balcom said after the meeting that careful review of the 2016 budget has closed the $60,000 deficit the board initially was looking at for this year. But that means the town will go into next year with no fund balance.

He talked during the meeting about reducing the number of seats on the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals from seven to five. Each member on those boards is paid $2,600 with the chair and vice-chairs being paid a little more. Mr. Balcom said that the number of people on the board also determines how long they will serve. Presently all members of those two boards are appointed to seven-year terms.

“We can’t remove them unless they do something very, very bad,” Mr. Balcom said.

There was also a discussion on outsourcing the duties of the building inspector to a private firm and using the county to conduct assessments in the town.

Mr. Swartz supported the idea of getting more information about both possibilities but said of the proposal to use the county for assessments, “We are talking about losing two more employees to the county.”

The board discussed cutting the full-time hours of the maintenance worker who works at the Town Hall, the courtroom at the Tracy Memorial Village Hall and the highway garage.

“The services of that position would be taken over by a private firm,” Mr. Balcom said.

Michael Richardson, a labor relations consultant working with the Town Board on the budget, said that total package for salary and benefits that that employee receives is about $48,000.

“I hate to hurt an employee like this,” said Mr. Swartz of cutting the position.

Mr. Balcom said that the cuts were all part of moving forward with the budget process for next year. A proposed budget will be presented to the board in September.

Mr. Balcom and Mr. Richardson are working with the Citizens’ Finance Committee, a group of volunteers working with the town on the budget. The committee held a meeting with the town’s accounting firm earlier last week to review the budget.

Mr. Balcom and Town Supervisor Maria Lull thanked the committee members for their time and the work they have done for free. Ms. Lull said the accountant commented on how much money the town had saved having the volunteer committee.

“This committee had been a godsend for this town,” Mr. Balcom said.

Also at the meeting, the board passed a motion to amend Local Law 3 after a public hearing. The law creates escrow accounts for attorney and engineering frees for residents making applications to the Planning and Zoning Board of Appeals

Also at the August 18 meeting:

• The Town Board approved closing the parking lot next to Tracy Memorial Village Hall for an event on October 1 hosted by Chatham Brewing and Chatham Area Business Alliance (CABA). The parking lot is jointly owned by the Village of Chatham and the town

• Carol Hegeman was appointed to the county Office for the Aging Advisory Council due to the resignation of Carol Pinkowski, who is moving out of the town

• Mr. Balcom said the consultant working on updating the town’s zoning laws would present the proposed changes to the code in the coming months and there may be updated zoning laws by January.

The next board meeting will be Thursday, September 15 at 7 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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