New board member takes the oath of office. Bonnie Hundt (l) was sworn in to her first term on the Ancram Town Board by Town Justice Bob Wilcox, Sunday, January 7 at Ancram Town Hall. Ms. Hundt, a Democrat, is the former chair of the town Zoning Board of Appeals. Also sworn in Sunday was her fellow board member, Madeleine Israel, who was reelected to the board in November. New and newly reelected town and city officials have taken the oath of office and gotten down to business of local government in communities around the county. A story about the Kinderhook Town Board appears on Page 3 and the Hudson Common Council on Page 9; a picture of the Chatham Town Board is on Page 10. Photo by B. Docktor

Hudson Council enters new era

HUDSON–Presiding at his first meeting as President of the Common Council, Tom DePietro opened the session observing that “We begin this new term of the Hudson City Council with high hopes in a time of great excitement for all of Hudson.” The new council is the first to incorporate one-person-one-vote representation Hudson voters approved in a 2015 ballot referendum. Of the 11 Council members, including the president, 10 are serving their first terms. Tiffany Garriga (D-2nd) is the returning majority leader and now in her third term on the council.

“The DRI may be a welcome infusion of money,” Mr. DePietro continued, referring to the $10-million state economic development grant, “but I fear it makes many of us think that the beneficence of the state is the solution to all our needs. I would like to see a new civic consciousness develop in tandem with the new development projects.“

Monday night’s meeting was both the annual organizing meeting and the regular informal council meeting. Mr. DePietro announced the council committees and chairs. Gone is the Arts, Entertainment and Tourism Committee. He said its functions would duplicate the new Tourism Board, created by the 2017 Lodging Tax local law. The whole council would decide the distribution of $20,000 allocated for community events. Mr. DePietro created a new Housing and Transportation Committee, chaired by Ms. Garriga. Youth and Aging acquires the new title of Youth, Education, Seniors and Recreation, led by Kamal Johnson (D-3rd). Read more…

Claverack reaches agreement with W. Ghent firefighters

PHILMONT–At its December meeting, the Claverack Town Board discussed the town’s new contract with the West Ghent Fire Company. Previous fire company leaders did not properly oversee the company’s finances and the state comptroller released the findings of an audit late last year that was critical of the fire company’s management.

The audit was launched after the fire company’s treasurer pleaded guilty to falsifying the company’s business records.

“They’ve had some issues fiscally in regards to theft of some funds,” said Councilman Brian Keeler. Read more…

K’hook residents want town action on opioids, speeding

VALATIE–The Town Board held its annual organization meeting and swearing in of newly elected and reelected town officials this week. Several residents in the audience asked the board to create committees to deal with issues in the town, including speeding on Route 203, the opioid crisis and economic development.

County Court Judge Jonathan Nichols attended the January 8 meeting to swear in newly elected Councilwoman Sally Hogan as well as reelected Town Justice Lisa Mills, Highway Superintendent John Ruchel and Supervisor Pat Grattan, who said he is serving his ninth term. Patsy Leader, who was reelected to her seat on the board, was not at the meeting.

Mr. Grattan then honored former board member Paul Voltz for his four years of service. Mr. Voltz did not run for reelection last November. And Mr. Grattan gave a plaque to Peter Haemmerlein, who is resigning as chair of the town Planning Board, for his years of service on that board. Read more…

Surprise’s job status comes into focus

COPAKE—Two weeks after the town’s Sole Assessor J. Craig Surprise was fired, he was rehired. Both actions were taken without public explanation.

At the Town Board’s December 14 meeting, members went into executive session to discuss personnel matters. When they emerged, Supervisor Jeff Nayer made a motion to terminate Mr. Surprise’s employment with the Town of Copake effective immediately. Everyone voted in favor except Councilperson Jeanne Mettler.

Fourteen days later at the town’s yearend meeting December 28 following another executive session, Ms. Mettler motioned to rescind the December 14 motion to terminate Mr. Surprise’s employment. Everyone voted in favor except Mr. Nayer. Read more…

Supes choose new public defender

HUDSON–Columbia County changed public defenders with the New Year. Robert Linville, the county’s public defender for almost two decades until the end of the year, “was a wonderful administrator…. I inherited a very competent and dedicated staff,” said his successor, Dominic Cornelius, in phone interviews January 4 and 5.

Public defenders are lawyers appointed to represent defendants who can’t afford to hire a lawyer. In Columbia and other counties in New York state they are appointed and paid by county government.

Mr. Linville was Columbia County’s Public Defender for 18 years and was consistently reappointed by the Board of Supervisors when his term expired. But he said by phone December 30, “about 10 days ago,” one county supervisor, told him the county Republican Caucus “wants the public defender to go in a different direction.” He was not reappointed. Neither the supervisor who spoke to Mr. Linville nor Supervisor Matt Murell (R-Stockport), Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, would comment on the matter. But Mr. Murell did say that the people involved had made a decision “not to renew Mr. Linville” before determining who should replace him. Read more…