Chatham spreads risk… in writing

CHATHAM–Town Supervisor Maria Lull announced last week that the president of the Ghent/Chatham Area Seniors group has signed an agreement that the Town Board had been asking for since January. The board required the group, which sponsors trips and meetings for local seniors, to agree to a written commitment to protect the town from liability for the group’s activities. The Town Board was withholding $2,000 budgeted for the group until the agreement was signed.

Supervisor Lull said at the September 21 Town Board meeting that the funds for the group would now be released. Ms. Lull had sent a letter to The Columbia Paper in August saying that “the signing of an agreement is a New York State legal requirement that the town has to comply with, as we have done with all other organizations.”

Councilman Henry Swartz thanked Mike Blasl for talking to the group’s leaders about the agreement. “He managed to negotiate this somehow,” Mr. Swartz told the board.

The board also discussed with Community Garden member Elisabeth Grace for that group to sign a similar agreement holding the town harmless for using land to garden in Crellin Park. Ms. Grace said she had presented Supervisor Lull with the garden group’s insurance policy. Town Attorney Sal Ferlazzo said he would send the town’s agreement document to Ms. Grace after the meeting so that she could share it with the other Community Garden members. Mr. Ferlazzo pointed out that the agreement would not protect the town if it was responsible for “gross negligence” but the town would be protected if a member of the garden club was injured at the garden. “Tools are dangerous,” he said of gardening.

Councilman John Wapner told Ms. Grace that by signing the agreement, the town is not “adding on any fees.” Each person who rents a plot a in the garden would need to sign the agreement.

Mr. Ferlazzo also told the board that he was still working with the disc golf club that uses town land behind Town Hall about signing a similar agreement. He said that the group had been maintaining the land as well, which his said was an unusual arrangement for a municipality to have. He said he didn’t know of any other town that uses volunteers to maintain town land. He said having them use mowers on town land was “a recipe for disaster.”

The disc golf group does not pay a fee to use the land, but Mr. Ferlazzo said that in his discussions with the representatives from the group, they would be open to paying a fee for tournaments but they had some issues with charging for practices and games. He said he was looking for insurance from the group as well.

Mr. Ferlazzo told the board that he had finalized an agreement with the Morris Memorial Soccer Program, which uses the fields at Crellin Park for their fall program.

Also at the meeting:

• Resident Cindy Bobseine said during public comment at that the end of the meeting that she had received several emails about election signs being removed and vandalized. Mr. Ferlazzo said that signs are allowed on private property and town right-of-ways with the permission of the landowner. They are not allowed on town land. He said that if the town allows signs for yard sales and church events, then residents may also have candidate signs. “It’s a First Amendment right,” he said.

He also said that if someone is removing signs from private property, that is trespassing.

Mr. Swartz said that he had talked county Sheriff David Bartlett about the issue and sheriff encouraged people to call his office if signs have been vandalized or removed

• Mr. Ferlazzo said he was still in discussions with CSX about a traffic light at the Albany Turnpike Bridge in East Chatham, which runs above the train tracks CSX owns. CSX replaced the bridge a few years ago, making it a one-lane span, and residents have been complaining about sightline issues ever since. Last year, the town received funds from the state to install a traffic light but Ms. Lull said the town has not received approval from the state Department of Transportation for plans to modify the intersection with state Route 295. Mr. Ferlazzo said that the town has yet to take ownership of the new bridge and said that CSX does not “want to make a contribution” to fixing the traffic issue

• The board discussed the new electric car charger planned in the Village of Chatham at the municipal parking lot. Councilwoman Landra Haber said the town’s Climate Smart Committee reviewed the contract with the state for grant money for the charging station and there were “a couple of small issues,” mostly having to do with the amount of funding. But she stressed that the discussion of the remaining details “doesn’t change the amount we are getting.”

The board hopes to have the charging station up and running this year.

The next regular Town Board meeting will be Thursday, October 19 at 6 p.m. in the Town Hall on Route 295.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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