HILLSDALE—Following a spirited conversation toward the end of its monthly meeting, the Hillsdale Town Board voted 2-0 to appoint colleague Robina Ward interim supervisor. She will serve through December 31, 2020.
Board members Steve Tiger and Tom Carty voted in the affirmative. Deputy Supervisor Jill Sims, who chaired the meeting, abstained from voting, citing her name being put forward for the position by two audience participants during the public comments session of the Zoom conference call.
Ms. Ward recused herself from the discussion. She will be a candidate for supervisor in the November general election, running on the Hillsdale Unity Party line. Her opponent will be Chris Kersten, a former Hillsdale town judge, who was selected on August 5 to be the Hillsdale Democratic Party’s candidate.
Mr. Tiger, who made the resolution to appoint Ms. Ward, cited the urgency of having Hillsdale represented at a scheduled county Board of Supervisors meeting Wednesday, the day following the Town Board meeting. Mr. Tiger noted that the deputy supervisor is not allowed to participate in Board of Supervisors meetings.
Initially, one of the audience participants suggested that Mr. Kersten be appointed interim supervisor but changed to urging the board to appoint a “neutral” person, “someone who does not have a stake in the election.” The participant, also, noted that the board would not lose “Robina’s valued service.”
Ms. Ward has to resign from the board if she agrees to serve as interim supervisor.
Another participant suggested Mr. Carty, who had seconded Mr. Tiger’s resolution. Mr. Carty quickly declined, saying of Ms. Ward, “She is the logical choice.” He added, “We are not as qualified.”
Mr. Tiger admitted to being “irked” by the discussion, saying that no one offered to speak during the public comments part of the agenda at the start of the meeting.
But Ms. Sims countered, “Given the number of participants, public comments are appropriate.” According to ZOOM, there were more than 20 meeting participants who logged on to the meeting.
Mr. Tiger was adamant that the Town Board “has the responsibility” and that audience participants had “no authority” to nominate.
Ultimately, Ms. Ward accepted the appointment as interim town supervisor and submitted a letter of resignation from the Town Board effective August 11.
In other business:
• The board acknowledged a potential funding shortage for the town sewer district that could threaten its ability to meet payroll expenses. Ms. Ward suggested that fees paid quarterly to the town’s grant consultant and engineer, totaling $9,000, be redirected to the sewer district.
Town Clerk Kathi Doolan noted that usage bills had gone out recently and she anticipated that the billing revenue “should cover payroll at least”
• In another resolution, the board approved lending the sewer district $30,650 in order to meet an upcoming bond payment
• The board unanimously approved the recommendation of the Hamlet Park Committee’s choice of a planning vendor for the park’s restoration despite there being two lower bidders
• On the subject of internet access, Mr. Tiger , chair of the Broadband Committee, promised that the committee will get “more aggressive within the next month,” especially in light of the possibility of virtual teaching due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Mr. Tiger noted that one-third of Hillsdale residents still “do not have good service”
• The town will advertise to fill two anticipated vacancies on the town Planning Board.
The next board meeting is Tuesday, September 8 at 7 p,m.