Hillsdale super, highway chief lock horns

HILLSDALE–At the Town Board’s regular monthly meeting January 14, Highway Superintendent Richard Briggs and Town Supervisor Peter Cipkowski engaged in a lengthy discussion about the propriety of Mr. Cipkowski meeting privately with residents who have issues with highway employees’ work.

“I am an elected official,” said Mr. Briggs, who noted that the town’s Red Handbook states that the highway superintendent is responsible for “brush removal.”

The disagreement between the two town officials stems from complaints about tree cutting by a Hunt Road resident. Mr. Briggs charged that the resident harassed “his employees” and would not meet with the person to discuss the issue. Mr. Briggs added that the trees in question were cut by NYSEG and that brush was being removed from a property adjacent to the complainant’s.

“We don’t cut on people’s property without their permission,” Mr. Briggs said.

Mr. Cipkowski countered that a few people have questioned the “town’s commitment to preservation of narrow roads” and the beauty of the community. Board members Steve Tiger and Robina Ward offered that complaints should be made in writing, with Ms. Ward adding, “I am concerned if people are harassing highway employees.”

Mr. Briggs described the interactions with the Hunt Road resident as “15 years of conflict.”

In other business at the January 14 meeting:

• In his update on county government Supervisor Cipkowski announced that both the Republican and Democratic commissioners of the County Board of Elections will be replaced and that the positions are going to be fulltime with a $65,000 salary. Kelly Miller-Simmons, who ran unsuccessfully for Copake Town Supervisor in November, is the new Republican commissioner and that Democrats will meet in February to name a successor to Commissioner Virginia Martin

• Hamlet Committee Chair Shannon May outlined three projects for downtown Hillsdale, including bike rack replacements at three locations: the base of Anthony Street, near the General Store and adjacent to Hillsdale House on Route 23. Other plans call for signage about the Harlem Valley Rail Trail at the top of Anthony Street near the IGA and the restoration of Hamlet Park on Maple Street

• Victor Cornelius of Endeavor Municipal Development, Inc., with whom the town contracts for grant writing and research, presented a plan for Hillsdale to secure funding to expand its sewer district’s capacity with “no impact on rate structure” and possibly allowing the town “to offer a rate reduction.” Mr. Cornelius said he has enlisted Congressman Antonio Delgado (D-19th) to visit Hillsdale on January 23 for a “walk around” from Town Hall to Roe Jan Brewery, whose owner was beset with several sewer issues before being allowed to open.

Mr. Cornelius recommended that the town pursue federal funding for sewer expansion as an economic development issue rather than an environmental one. He noted that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D) has sponsored a $3 billion infrastructure bill. The consultant added that if Hillsdale received funding through Sen. Gillibrand’s bill, it could cover “up to 75% of the costs” for expansion

• In committee reports, Planning/Zoning chair Tom Carty said that two people sought change of purpose permits to Short Term Rentals (STR)

• Infrastructure chair Robina Ward said that replacement of a street lamp toppled on December 2 will cost nearly $8,000. The pole was struck by a DOT snowplow truck on Route 23 in front of Hillsdale Home Chef.

The next board meeting is Tuesday, February 11 at 7 p.m.

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