HILLSDALE–Covid-19’s impact on town and county finances plus road projects dominated business at the Hillsdale monthly Town Board meeting online July 14.
Town Supervisor Peter Cipkowski reported that Columbia County is projecting a $12-million budget shortfall this year due to lost revenue from lockdowns related to the pandemic. Mr. Cipkowski added that the actual shortfall as of mid-July is $6 million, noting that projections are “on target.” To help stanch a drain on county revenue, the supervisor said that county workers are being furloughed one pay period per month.
Mr. Cipkowski reported on other casualties of the financial pinch created by Covid 19:
• Hillsdale received no money from the state in May and June
• The tourism board did receive $20,000 but the amount represents only 20% of past state support.
• Hillsdale sales tax revenue is down by 4.6% or $1 million
• Current property tax delinquency is $1.3 million, the highest it has been since 2015. The delinquent properties include large commercial parcels.
There will be no summer day camp programs in Hillsdale. Park committee chair Jill Sims-Elster reported that after a meeting with interested parents and staff, all parties concluded that following the state’s recommended guidelines for social distancing and sanitation would result in “a summer of no, no, no.”
In past meetings Ms. Sims-Elster had stated that Hillsdale’s facility has the space to accommodate social distancing. With Hillsdale’s cancellation of summer camp, no Columbia County town is offering youth programming this summer.
Hamlet committee members participating in the Zoom meeting expressed a desire to sponsor a community-wide event in October, possibly an outdoors concert. While expressing some skepticism about the ability to comply with Covid 19 social distancing restrictions, and noting that “October is chilly,” Supervisor Cipkowski conceded that the Farmers Market continued operation “proves it can be done safely.”
The board reviewed estimates for three road improvement projects: Phudd Hill Road, $54,691; Whippoorwill Road, $204,990; and Maple Street, $31,500. The estimates include only the costs for materials, surveying and engineering. The costs of land acquisition, legal and administrative fees were not calculated.
Because of its projected costs, the need to coordinate with the state Department of Transportation and the likelihood of needing to acquire additional land from deed holders, the Whippoorwill Road project generated the most discussion. The project calls for constructing 1,550 feet of new roadway on Whippoorwill. Drivers exiting Whippoorwill onto state Route 22 have an obstructed view of the state highway due to the location of a private residence close to the intersection.
Board members informally conceded that the project is beyond the means of town finances. It was agreed that the town would seek an estimate for a simpler solution, using a parcel already owned by the town, moving entry onto 22 further south of its current point. Highway Superintendent Richard Briggs endorsed the idea, saying that a modest widening of the area would enable “town vehicles with snowplows to maneuver more safely.”
The Maple Street project is considered the simplest of the three. It calls for removing pavement to disconnect Maple from routes 22 and 23 as far as the Hamlet Park parking lot. The ultimate plan is to create a green space in that section of Hamlet Park.
Regarding the Phudd Hill Road project, the town is relying on promises from residents on that road to contribute to the costs.
The next board meeting is Tuesday, August 11 at 7 p.m.