Chatham board reshuffles financial staff, closes Tracy

CHATHAM–The Village Board moved forward with a proposal from current Village Treasurer Robert Patterson to transition him to a bookkeeping and accounting role and have the village clerk and deputy clerk take over the treasurer’s duties.

Mr. Patterson was hired as the village accountant in March of 2018 and then as village treasurer in August of 2018. He took over the position after the then treasurer resigned and just as the Office of the State Comptroller was investigating the village for not making payments on certain payroll taxes to the state and the IRS. In January of 2019, village files were sized by the state.

At the board’s March 9 meeting, Mayor John Howe said the state investigation of the village’s finances was coming to an end. The board approved Mr. Patterson’s proposal to perform monthly bank reconciliations, prepare and submit the monthly New York State Retirement System report, assist with preparing the annual budget, and prepare and submit the Annual Updated Document to the comptroller, among other things. For these services, Mr. Patterson will charge the village $27,000 to be paid in 12 installments.

Mayor Howe said that the village will save about $15,000 even with paying Mr. Patterson’s fee and paying the clerk and deputy clerk more for their time spend on treasurer duties. Mr. Patterson’s new contract with the village will start April 1.

“The bottom line is, I think this is a good thing,” said Mayor Howe.

Trustee Melony Spock asked about the increase in salary for the clerks. Village Clerk Debra Meyers, who was at the meeting, said her salary would go up from about $24 an hour to $30. As for the Deputy Clerk Trish DeLong, Ms. Meyers said it was up to the board to review. Ms. DeLong’s hours would go up from 20 to 24 hours a week and some of that would be for work on payroll.

This was also supposed to be the last meeting for Trustee Lenore Packet, who has been on the board since 2012. She did not run for reelection this March. But the governor announced March 16 that statewide village elections, which were scheduled to take place March 18, were postponed. “In an effort to keep New Yorkers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued an executive order delaying village elections statewide until the April 28 primary election,” a release from the governor’s office reads.

After the meeting on March 9, Ms. Packet said of her time on the board, “It was great” and that she learned a lot.

She said, “It was lovely being a steward of the village.”

Ms. Spock is running for a full term on the board in village elections. She is currently finishing a one year term of a board member that resigned. There are two open seats this year. New comer Jodie Russell is running for the other seat.

Also at the meeting, the board heard a presentation from Claudia Knab-Vispo and Wendy Carroll about creating a pollinator meadow on Dinnegar Avenue on a half acre on the south slope below the new water tank.

“This proposal will not only save on the on-going maintenance costs of continuous mowing but will provide beautiful native wildflowers and pollinator habitat for our community. We will donate our professional time to planning, coordination, and implementation. We will also donate the seeds and arrange for seeding and maintenance at no cost to the village,” reads the proposal.

Ms. Knab-Vispo, who lives on Dinnegar Avenue, is a botanist with the Hawthorne Valley Farmscape Ecology Program, and Ms. Carroll, who also lives in the village, is a landscape architect.

They presented the board with a seven-page proposal with pictures. Mayor Howe said that they should talk to Phil Genovese at the village Department of Public Works. Of the plan, he said, “I personally think it’s wonderful.”

“Whatever we can do to support that,” he said, suggesting the board would pay some “minor expenses.” He praised their presentation and their plan to use volunteers.

“We’ve been kicking this around for a year,” said Ms. Knab-Vispo of the idea and the plan.

The board recently announced that the village clerk’s office in the Tracy Memorial/Village Hall will be closed to the public “for the time being.” A statement on the website says, “We will be working in our offices. If there are any questions, people are asked to call us at 518 392-5821 ext 3 for the clerk.” Trash stickers are available at Citgo, Stewarts and Sunoco in the village, and any water payments can be left in the locked mailbox on the the building. Updates will posted on the village website at https://villageofchatham.com/ and the village’s Facebook page “Village of Chatham, NY.”

The village clerk said they are also discussing ways to post information for people who are not online. She also said that only essential staff will be working at the Department of Public Works so leaf pick-up is postponed at this time. The Planning Board meeting scheduled for March 23 has been canceled.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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