CHATHAM–The Town Board held a special meeting last week to start discussing the town’s 2019 budget. Several department heads, including the Highway Department superintendent, the recreation director, the town assessor and the town clerk asked for raises in next year’s budget ranging from 3% to 10%.
The board started the meeting on Thursday, October 4 with presentations from two of the fire companies the town funds–Chatham Fire and Tri-Village. The board also budgets funds for the East Chatham and Niverville fire companies.
The board then looked over town departments starting with the assessor, who asked for a 10% increase in his salary, saying that assessing properties, even on the county level, costs more than what he is currently receiving.
The town’s code enforcement office presented a budget that includes the possibility that the office’s workload will increase due to short-term rental regulations. The town is researching software that will help with registering short-term rental properties.
Highway Superintendent Joe Rickert started out his review of the Highway Department budget by saying that this was his last term in office. He plans to retire when his term ends in 2020. He asked the board for a 5% increase in his salary, saying he just wants to make what other highway superintendents in the county are making. He also talked about some salary increases that were negotiated with the town employees in the union, and the cost of oil going up.
Recreation Director Mike West presented a budget for maintaining Crellin Park and a budget for the summer recreation program. He has several projects that need to be done around the park and was asking the board to fund tree removal near the tennis courts, as well as a leaf blower to maintain the courts. There was also some discussion about painting the courts.
Mr. West said he looked into costs for split-rail fencing around the parking lot and metal fencing in another area. He said the beach sand at the pond had not been replaced in three years. He talked about repairs needed at the pavilion in the back section of the park and a maintenance building. He also asked for a cell phone that would be on the town’s cell phone plan that he can use during camp and said there was no wifi at the park and having it might help with security.
After his report, Councilman John Wapner said that the town needs a plan to maintain the park if the board wants to do these upgrades. He said moving forward with improvements without a maintenance plan was “just foolish accounting.”
Supervisor Maria Lull said that the cost to do all these things “couldn’t possibly come out of next year’s budget.” She said that the board is looking into borrowing money to do a renovation of the pavilion near the pond and that some of these projects could be part of that bond.
Mr. West also asked for a 10% increase in his hourly rate. He is a part-time employee who does not get health benefits. He said that the amount of work and the responsibilities of the job have increased.
Town Clerk Beth Anne Rippel said that the budget for her office was staying mostly the same, but she did ask the board for a 3% increase for her and the deputy clerks. She pointed out that her department has not had salary increases in many years.
“I’m not thinking 3% is out of line here,” she said of the increase.
The board closed the special meeting with no comments on the pay increases and opened the workshop meeting. Each board member was presented with a tentative 2019 budget that did not include the requests that the employees had made that night. Ms. Lull asked board members to review the proposed budget and said they would discuss it further at the next special meeting on October 11 at 6 p.m. at the Town Hall.
Also at the meeting:
• Ms. Lull announced that there will be a public information meeting about the Albany Hudson Electric Trail and the North Chatham intersection of Routes 203 and 32 on October 20 at 10 a.m. at the North Chatham Trolley Station. Representatives from the state’s Greenway will be there to discuss their plans for the part of the 35-mile trail that goes through part of North Chatham
• The board had a short discussion on comments made about the proposed new zoning law. The board looked at new definitions for “major” and “minor” home occupations and talked about short-term rentals.
Ms. Lull had an issue with the minor home occupation–a home business with three or fewer employees. The property owner would not have to come to the Planning Board for a permit. She said that the proposed definition takes away the need for a public hearing so the neighbors can voice their opinions about the business.
The board also discussed short-term rentals, like Airbnb, and the comments made at two public hearings on the proposed law.
Councilwoman Landra Haber said that the whole idea of short-term rentals is evolving and “whatever we decide we need to revisit it.” She also said she was on the side of less regulations but had not made up her mind.
Councilman Wapner said that short-term rentals are a “major problem” in the hamlets. The board talked about a residency requirement, which Councilman Bob Balcom said should be six-months-and-a-day of living in the community.
Ms. Lull said she was meeting with a representative from the Airbnb company and would have more insight about how the company works at the next meeting.
The next board meeting is Thursday, October 18 at 6 p.m. in the Town Hall.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email