Hillsdale supervisor faults coroner pick process

HILLSDALE–At the start of the monthly Town Board meeting this week Supervisor Peter Cipkowski, council members and Town Clerk Kathi Doolan adjourned to a closed executive session to discuss a personnel matter and returned to open session approximately 10 minutes later.

In the public announcements portion of the August 14 meeting, Supervisor Cipkowski reported that the Columbia County Public Safety Committee, without interviewing candidates, recommended the interim appointment of former State Trooper Carmen Martino as coroner to complete the term of Dr. Andrea Coleman, who unexpectedly resigned. The full county Board of Supervisors, voting along party lines, approved Mr. Martino’s appointment. Republicans hold a majority of the weighted votes on the Board of Supervisors.

Mr. Cipkowski, a Democrat, said the appointment showed a “lack of transparency” and added that another candidate, Bernadette Powis, has a medical background and 35 years of experience as a registered nurse, family nurse practitioner and psychiatric nurse practitioner.

Columbia County voters will vote in November for a replacement coroner in November. Ms. Powis has announced that she is seeking election to that seat. The county has three coroners.

Mr. Cipkowski also announced that the county Sheriff’s Office plans to crack down on speeders passing through Hillsdale along Routes 22 and 23. The supervisor added that the town should consider adding radar speed warning signs, although they cannot be posted on the intersecting routes. Board members and Highway Superintendent Richard Briggs identified the local roads of Mitchell, Hunt, West End and Oxbow as additional locations where speeding drivers are a problem.

Hillsdale Assessor Pam Cook updated the board on the property revaluation project. New valuations take effect September 2019. Ms. Cook said, “Tax rates should go down.”

The last Hillsdale property revaluation was a decade or more ago.

Ms. Cook said that “tentative” assessment letters should go out in November. The letters will include a form on which property owners can note disagreements with the new assessments. If the changes are minor, Ms. Cook says her office likely will accept them but that major changes would “require a re-visit to the property.” She noted that 10% of Hillsdale property owners refused to participate in the re-valuation process.

Property owners, who think the new assessments “unfair” will have the opportunity for an in-person meeting. Fifteen-minute sessions will be set-up in January and February with town officials, followed by a second mailing of new assessments in April. Grievance hearings would be scheduled in May.

Ms. Cook stressed that the deadline for all exemptions filings is March 1. She added that there are “on-going conversations with the governor” regarding the state’s desire to take over all STAR property tax exemptions by processing them through tax returns. Ms. Cook noted that such an approach is problematic for seniors not required to file state returns.

In other business:

• The board unanimously approved a resolution to enter into a contract, pending review by the town attorney, with the Roe Jan Food Pantry to lease space in the basement of the county sheriff substation on Route 23. The pantry will be charged $500 rent annually, payable quarterly, to cover electricity costs

• Parks Committee Chair Jill Sims-Elster reported that the mower for Roe Jan Park needs repairs and that parts alone cost $600. She suggested that the town consider an upgrade or replacement of the mower, which was a “used” model when originally purchased

• Caroline Stewart was appointed to the Conservation Advisory Committee and will serve until July 31, 2019.

The next Town Board meeting and budget workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, September 11 at 7 p.m.

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