Town Hall Meeting #2 Under Supervisor Maas
January 18, 2018–Notes by Anne McCabe (taxpayer)
This second meeting of the Union Vale Town Board (UVTB) under the supervision of Betsy Maas touched on a number of topics. (Fellow residents, if you want to get a copy of each agenda for the UVTB meetings, go to unionvaleny.us and sign up. Last week’s was not available until the day of the meeting.) Each UVTB meeting agenda is to be available at the town website.
I did note that again, as at the first meeting, the Council Members sit at a table, the placement of which makes the visibility of John Welsh, Corrina Kelley, and Dave McMorris difficult for live and video audience to see clearly. Since each of these Members of the Town Board has a constituency and makes decisions for the entire town, such a seating arrangement is a disadvantage for the voters of the town.
One of the discussion topics was the present and future of the Recycling Center. Ms. Maas said Coordinator Tom St.Onge has asked that all UV residents consider buying a permit to the recycling center. This center contributes to a cleaner environment and encourages recycling. Visit the unionvaleny.us site to get more information.
The question of raising the town’s insurance bond to provide against theft was brought up by Ms. Maas. Mr. Welsh said that he thought the current amount was sufficient. The issue will be discussed again at the next meeting.
During The Board Member Comment section of the meeting four of the Board Members called attention to a number of emails each had received from various members of the town requesting that both UVTB meetings of each month be televised rather than following the suggestion of Ms. Maas that only the second of the two be filmed. No action was taken on these emails or on the issue of transparency.
The Highway Superintendent Richie Wisseman appeared with his list of intentions as to which roads in town he planned to repair this year. When asked by Council Member Corrina Kelley as to how he had decided on these particular roads, Mr. Wisseman said he had chosen them as he drove through the town. Mrs. Kelley asked why Mr. Wisseman had not availed himself of a thorough study done last year by Dutchess County Transportation Council’s survey, a survey which gave each town road a grade ( 100 being perfect). Although some of the roads Mr. Wisseman had selected were on the list, others which had been assessed as far worse (one with a grade in the 30’s) had not been selected. Mr. Wisseman said he could take another look at his list. Ms. Maas said that Mr. Wisseman should bring the list back in a few months right before he starts the road work.
All of the UVTB members expressed an interest in attending the Association of Towns meeting in NYC. There were a number of unanswered questions as to costs involved in finding housing for the conference, the cost of which for each participant is $125.00 per person, but with the exception of Mrs. Kelley who asked to have more details worked out first, the Town Board passed a motion to pay for the Town Board attendees.
Ms. Maas then suggested that the UVTB provide funding for the newly restored position of Tax Collector to work three hours on each Saturday morning from 9-12 noon. Ms, Maas said she knew this Saturday availability had been tried before and had not been used much,but she wanted to try it again. There was discussion about her dividing this work with the Town Clerk and possibly also adding funding to hire a Town Constable to be present. Mr. Welsh questioned why this experimental Saturday opening would extend to June, since in the past tax collection normally ended in May. Ms. Maas said there was paper work to do. Because there were a number of unanswered questions about cost and security and need, Council Member Kelley voted against the motion to begin this “experiment.” All others on the Town Board voted to approve it.
Next on the agenda was the topic of paying-in-full from the town funds resulting from public taxation the entire health supplementary premiums for five retired persons (the author asked during Public Comment for clarification on whether such persons were elected officials or town employees, and the answer was “on staff” by Ms. Maas, but “yes,”some were elected by John Welsh). It also appeared that one person, his name was used during the Board conversation, who had been employed by the Town, not an elected official, HAD been paying since his retirement for his premium as stipulated by the 2003 Code requirement.
According to her belief, Ms. Maas says that these unnamed five people when they retired had expected to have 100% of their premium cost paid by the town, despite the fact that the 2003 Town Code stipulated that only 50% of their premium be paid by the town. Ms. Maas felt that these people could be “grandfathered in” at a cost of about $18,000 to taxpayers.(writer’s note here: I have made inquiries from former legislators and “grandfathered in” cannot apply to something that no one is permitted to do by regulation– the term is used to extend an existing regulation for a select group which is adhering to the regulation at the time of the regulation’s having been changed). Mr. Welsh objected to “grandfather in” and made a motion to pay the entire supplemental income of these people for this year until December. Mr. Welsh emphatically said, “Not going backward, not going forward, just this year” as he made his motion. ( I would recommend listening to this debate which has many implications). This motion passed with the exception of Council Member Kelley who asked for more information.
Also at the next meeting the extension of tax reductions for Cold War veterans will be discussed.
Public Comments were permitted:
This author (Anne McCabe/ Darren Rd.) suggested that the largest amount of money lost by the town that she was aware of was not through theft but the result of a 2010 act of malfeasance by a then-sitting elected official of the town. This was an act which resulted in the town’s settling a lawsuit and paying out $234,000. (During this comment, I checked that figure and date with Councilman Welsh, who concurred with these facts.) Therefore, the possibility of indemnifying the town against such future losses brought about by elected official malfeasance might be a more valuable research project.
Then this author again stressed that the Union Vale TB’s intention to discontinue videotaping each regularly scheduled town board meeting was a 50% decrease in the board’s transparency. Since many taxpayers cannot receive channel 22, are not at home to watch it when it is shown (it can no longer be recorded on home tv’s), and are not able to attend Union Vale TB meetings, the need for video taping both meetings is critical.
Further this author reminded the TB that both times the author had made comments in two prior public comment sessions, her remarks had been cut out of the videotapes,while the comments of two other members of the public were totally missing. At this point, Ms Maas said,” We owe you an apology..” and went on to explain that these were glitches which the Union Vale TB was attempting to fix. This author accepted the apology, said that she was glad such things would be fixed, but did remind the Union Vale TB that she had definitely seen a pattern to the loss of her public comment remarks. Everyone laughed. And then Lizette Hitsman rose to say that she had had a good emergency plan in place during her terms in office, and thanked the board for the taxes the town would pay for the retirees.
Now, you, fellow taxpayers, could offer me some of your thoughts on this Town Board Meeting.
Overriding question which I have is why the Town Board is dispersing taxpayer money by passing motions ( which are not written word for word into the record and not written by the Town Attorney who is being paid to be at the meeting) rather than resolutions ( which are written down–presumably by the paid attorney present). Does this bother you as a taxpayer?
- Will you consider getting a Recycling Center pass?
- Should the TB increase its insurance bond on those who handle money in the town and/or those who make policy as elected officials? (There was insurance in the 2010 malfeasance case referred to above, but the sitting Town Board chose not to use it. The Town of Union Vale ended up paying $234,000.)
3.Should Mr. Wisseman use the survey of Union Vale Town roads, prepared last year by the Dutchess County Transportation Council of roads, when he decides which roads to fix first?
3.Should there be half day Saturday tax collector hours from February to June? Should the tax collector be every weekend in this experimental five month period? Should a constable also be hired for these hours? How much would you be willing to have the Town of Union Vale pay for this? John Welch mentioned that much of this could be done by mail.
- With a sincere understanding that the cost of health care insurance is rising, thus becoming a hardship on several households in this and every other town in NYS, this author believes that the best solution might be for the Town to petition the state to consider a statewide single payer health care solution. Since such has not yet happened, should elected officials have their full insurance premiums paid for by all taxpayers? Aren’t elected officials essentially different from employees? An employee takes a job for the period during which that employee performs the assigned work well and chooses to remain as a worker for the employer. The employee does not set policy but can negotiate individually to improve working conditions and salary. Good employees usually stay with their jobs because they gain some satisfaction from the work and because they are compensated fairly. This author believes that all employees of the town should receive 100% compensation on their insurance supplements.
Here is the essential difference I see: Elected officials serve the public and promise to act in the best interests of the public. Surely we have as a nation had enough of elected officials using taxpayer monies for their own interests. Elected officials assume office by choosing to place their names forward as candidates, and as a result of a single election success serve for one specific term. Even should the person be elected to several subsequent terms, each term is unique. Unlike an employee of the Town, the elected official runs for the position and is responsible to make sure that all duties and constraints of the position are executed, including compliance with the Town Code. Public service is distinct. If it is reasonable to assume that among these five people whose supplemental insurance is now being paid for by the town, there were elected officials, those Town employees ethically should have read the Town Code. Having read it or even helped write it or transmit it to the town, it follows that it is reasonable to believe that each understood the obligation which existed since 2003 to pay 50% of the supplemental insurance premium.
If the above thinking makes sense to you, should the town make a statement advising the State of NY to start investigating a single payer style medical insurance which would provide for less costly insurance for all citizens of the state and not just those who served as elected officials?
Should the Town pay the $18,000 stipulated in the resolution that passed at this meeting in order to assume the private obligations of (what seems to be true for at least one of these 5 persons) retired elected officials or should the elected official(s) assume their own responsibilities?
Do call or email your Town elected officials and let them know, or email them. It is usually best to email all five on the board by using the Bcc and listing all. If you call, do please call more than one member of the Board. Thanks, even if we disagree, I appreciate your reflecting on this taxpayer’s thoughts.
Betsy Maas email@example.com ; office phone 724-5600
Dave McMorris firstname.lastname@example.org ; phone 845-279-5412
Corrina Kelley email@example.com ; phone724-3126
John Welsh firstname.lastname@example.org ; phone 724-7060
Steven Frazier email@example.com; phone 845-227-8475
Please have your say. Democracy depends on ALL the people being involved.
Thanks for reading, Anne