Chatham sweeps away its street fee

CHATHAM–The Village Board voted unanimously this week to rescind fees for closing Main Street and Park Row, and fees for Village Police protection during events.

In 2017, the board adopted a fee structure for closing the roads in the village for events. Event organizers paid $1,000 to have Main Street closed and $550 for Park Row.

Mayor John Howe said at the May 13 board meeting that there was also a fee for groups that requested the Village Police at events or special situations in the village. The streets in the village are closed for Summerfest and other events hosted by CABA (Chatham Area Business and Arts), a member organization for local businesses with the goal to promote the Chatham area. The extra police coverage became an issue last summer, when there was discussion between the Village Board and the county Agricultural Society about payments to the Chatham Village Police during the county fair, which takes place at the fairgrounds in the village.

Mayor Howe, who was elected in March, said he’d done research on the issue and found that “it is illegal to ask or charge for police protection.” He also said that it appears to be illegal to charge for closing the streets.

Main Street is a state owned road–Route 66. The state needs to grant permission to organizations that want to close the street for events. Park Row is a village owned street. Mayor Howe said that organizations still need to let the Village Board know if they want to close the street and the village police will be there to close off the road, but any funds for paying the officers to be on duty at events will have to come from the Police Department budget, not from fees.

The village will still charge for use of Tracy Memorial Building ($30 for the upstairs, $60 for the whole building), the Gazebo ($30), the parking lot on Main Street next to the Tracy Memorial ($75), and Depot Square parking lot ($75).

Of the law setting the fees, Mr. Howe said, “Back when it was adopted, it was not reviewed by the village attorney.” He said going forward they would look at the fees on other municipal properties and the peddler fees for the village.

In terms of closing a street, Chatham Deputy Police Chief Joseph Alessi, who was at the meeting, said the state needed know 30 days in advance of events that close Main Street.

Chatham Village Attorney Ken Dow said that charging people to use village property is “very complicated.” He said there is property that is owned by the village and some that is “put in trust” for the public to use. Municipalities can set up fees but it’s difficult thing to sort through, he said.

The board also passed a motion at the meeting to set a fee of $45 on owners of any place of assembly, commercial property or multi-family dwelling that needs a fire safety inspection. The state mandates that places of assembly (restaurants, churches, theaters, galleries and other gathering places) are required to have a fire safety inspections every year and that commercial buildings and multi-family dwellings must be inspected every three years. According to the motion, “carrying out such mandated inspections imposes a cost upon the village” and the village can adopt a fee on the owners of any such property.

Mayor Howe said village Building Inspector Erin Reis has to do about 170 inspections this summer. He said charging the fee will compensate for about 80% of her budget.

Ms. Reis said she is sending out letters to property owners who need the inspections and now she will let them know about the fee.

The board also passed a motion to set a $75 fee charged to an owner or occupant who requests a special inspection of any building, structure, facility or property.

The board also amended the fee for birth and death certificates and for genealogy copies. Village Clerk Debra Meyers told the board they had been charging $30 but according the Local Registrar Procedure Manual the cost should be $10 plus $1 per copy. The motion passed amends fees set up in 2017 of $30 and goes back to the fee of $10.

Also at the meeting:

• Mayor Howe said he met with some village police officers on a Sunday morning to answer their questions about the direction the board plans to take with the police force. He said he met with them because of their concerns and he said moving forward, the board “will do our best to answer those questions”

• The board forgave late fees on water and sewer bills for five residents who said they never received their bills. Ms. Meyers said that all the residents had paid their bills on time in the past and they separately came the village to say they had not received a bill

• The board approved the membership of two residents, Christopher Knable and Keith Thomas, to the village fire companies. Mayor Howe said that they both joined because of the advertising the Fire Department has been doing

• The board waived the open container law for alcoholic beverages in the village during Summerfest on July 20. Information about Summerfest is at visitchathamny.com/chatham-summerfest.

The next regular Village Board meeting will be June 10 at 7 p.m. at the Tracy Memorial.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email moc.r1558807915epapa1558807915ibmul1558807915oc@el1558807915adsae1558807915te1558807915

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