New Chatham board hires some familiar folks

CHATHAM–The Town Board approved funding for a traffic light on the Albany Turnpike Bridge in East Chatham at the board’s first meeting of the year January 2. The project is funded by federal aid but the town needs to spend $250,000 and will then be reimbursed.
Tom Baird from Barton and Loguidice, the town’s engineering firm working on the project, was at the meeting to answer questions about the light and changes to the intersection on Route 295.

The light, he said, will have sensor, so that drivers on the Old Chatham side of the bridge will trigger the light to turn green when they approach the bridge. There will also be a sensor on the Route 295 side. Mr. Baird said that the technology for the sensors has gotten better and will be sensitive to back-ups on 295.

New Chatham Town Board members were sworn in on January 1 at the Town Hall. Pictured (l-r) are town board members Abi Mesick and Vance Pitkin, Town Supervisor Donal Collins and reelected Town Justice James Borgia-Forster being sworn in by Town Justice Michael Rosen. Photo by Zach Neven

He told the board, “The light is going to be maintained by the town” but that the state is “very, very helpful with” setting up the timing of the light. He said that getting approval for the light and the funding was a long process for the town but the light is “to help reduce the potential for accidents.” He said after the meeting that once the board passed the motion on funding, construction should start in the spring.
Last week’s board meeting was the organizational meeting and was chaired by the town’s new supervisor, Donal Collins. It was also the first session as board members for Abi Mesick and Vance Pitkin. Mr. Pitkin was appointed deputy supervisor and Ms. Mesick was appointed second deputy supervisor.

The new board appointed a new interim town attorney and a new member of the Planning Board, though both the men appointed to those positions have served the town before.
The board voted to hire Tal Rappleyea as town attorney for a non-specified interim period and they
appointed David Everett to the Planning Board. Mr. Rappleyea was the town attorney for 16 years before being replaced by a new law firm in 2016. Mr. Everett resigned from the town Zoning Board of Appeals in 2016 along with four other members of that board.

In 2016 the board was headed by a different newly-elected supervisor, Maria Lull. Ms. Lull lost her reelection bid last November to Mr. Collins.
Residents at the meeting, including former board member Michael Richardson, who was also defeated in his bid for reelection as councilman, questioned the appointment of Mr. Rappleyea. Mr. Richardson said the board had not solicited bids from attorney candidates. He also pointed out that the board members decided to hire Mr. Rappleyea before they were sworn in as board members January 1.

He said there was no public debate or discussion and he pointed to the town’s procurement policy, which addresses soliciting bids for professional services.
He stressed the board should “go through this process.”

There was also a discussion about Mr. Everett’s appointment being made without reaching out to other candidates or residents interested in the position. Board member John Wapner took issue with it, saying, “There was no process followed.”

Ms. Mesick said of not following a process on the Planning Board appointment, “I know that’s what I
did” but she felt “it was a no-brainer” to appoint Mr. Everett, a lawyer. He will serve out the balance of the term of former Planning Board member Sue Tanner, who resigned.
The board also heard from some residents who were unhappy about the appointments made to the Comprehensive Plan Update Review Committee. Ms. Mesick and Jeanne Veillette Bowerman are co- chairing the committee, along with Cindy Buckley, Jeff Cox, Mr. Everett, Tim Mackerer and Donna Staron.

Councilman Wapner voiced his concerns over that committee as did other members of the audience.
At the meeting the board terminated an agreement with Host Compliance LLC, the company that
provided monitoring of short-term rentals. Resident Cody Anderson asked if the new board members had seen any reports from the company.

“We have the reports already, we just need to get our hands on them,” said Ms. Mesick.
The board appointed committees and set salaries at the organizational meeting. Ms. Mesick said that the Chatham Agricultural Partnership Committee is looking for members and interested residents should contact the chair Mary Gail Biebel.

Ms. Mesick also talked about her goals as a board member and the goals of the new board, saying they planned to get information to residents “The website is not enough,” she said. She also said the board would hold meetings in the hamlets in the town. And she said that the Building Department is trying to educate people on what they need when dealing with zoning law requirements.

She said she was sorry that some of the board’s decisions displeased people. “I hope we please you guys,” she said to the audience.
The next board meeting is Thursday, January 16 at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall on Route 295.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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