Chatham ponders how much to charge for village streets

CHATHAM–The Village Board took up the question last week of what to charge for events that use municipal services and village streets.

At issue were plans by Chatham Area Business and Arts (CABA) to host the organization’s annual Summerfest and what fees the village will charge to pay for police and to have the village Department of Public Works clean up afterward.

“We are not allowed to gift or give away municipal services,” Mayor Tom Curran said at the March 9 meeting. He said the total cost to CABA for the summer event, where vendors set up stands along Main Street and Park Row, would be about $980.

“If our costs are covered by CABA, I’d be happy with that,” he said of the use of police and DPW.

But board members pursued a broader discussion that included whether the village should charge for the use of streets and a shared municipal parking lot. Trustee Lenore Packet said that the use of the streets was included among the services the village must charge for. Main Street is a state route but Park Row belongs to the village.

The parking lot near the Tracy Memorial Village Hall is jointly owned by the village and the Town of Chatham. It has been used by Chatham Brewing for events in past and was the site of performances at last year’s Summerfest. The board also talked about a fee for using the gazebo on the village green, a site that has been used for previous events and a farmers’ market.

“You can’t just let someone use municipal property,” Ms. Packet said. The board granted use of the second floor of the Tracy Memorial for an exercise class earlier in the meeting for a fee of $25. Village Clerk/Treasurer Barbara Henry said the Chatham Film Club pays a fee every year to use the Tracy during the FilmColumbia film festival. She also said that Sean’s Run, which is now a weekend-long event that uses some village streets, pays for extra police, as does the Columbia County Agricultural Society during the fair.

Ms. Packet said the board needed a clear policy on the use of municipal space. After Summerfest last year there a dispute between the board and CABA about what the not-for-profit organization owed the village. The board also talked about groups that make a profit or charge venders to come to an event, compared events that don’t charge venders or fees.

Trustee Mike Wollowitz made the point that that though events like Summerfest are “good for the village” but they come with costs “that need to be covered.”

The board discussed a fee for the gazebo being the same as the fee for the Tracy but did not make any decisions at the meeting. Mayor Curran said the board will send its proposal for police and DPW expenses to CABA.

Also at the meeting, the board heard form Ghent Town Board member Mallory Mort about a proposal to place a charging device for electric cars near parking spaces at Depot Square just off of Park Row. Mr. Mort said the town could receive a grant for up to $16,000 to install the charger, which could recharge two cars at once. “Aside from the grant, I just think it’s a good idea,” he said.

The Town of Chatham is also in discussions with the village to put a similar device in the municipal parking lot near the Tracy. Right now, the village needs to send a letter of support to Ghent for the plan so the Ghent town Climate Smart Committee can apply for the grant. Mr. Mort said that if the grant is approved, it would eventually require a municipal agreement and easement to use the land, which is the part of the Village of Chatham that lies within the Town of Ghent. Mr. Mort said the grant covers the cost of electricity to operate the chargers for two years. After that it would be the town’s responsibility to pay.

“If we put this in, the cars will come,” Mayor Curran said of the plan. The board did have some questions about where to put the devises. Mr. Mort said they did not need to be parking spots restricted to electric-powered vehicles, so that other cars could park in the spots near the chargers and not limit parking in village.

The mayor said the board would discuss the letter or pass a motion of support at the next meeting in March.

In other business, the board accepted the resignation of Ms. Henry as village clerk effective April 5. If Mayor Curran wins another term at the village elections on March 21, he said he would appoint Mr. Henry treasurer and current Deputy Clerk Debra Meyers will become clerk. Mr. Curran is running unopposed on the ballot.

The next board meeting will be Thursday, March 23 at the 7 p.m. in the Tracy Memorial/Village Hall.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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