Category Archives: Town Board Notes

No visual record meeting of Union Vale Town Board 2.1.18

Having attended the “Working Town Board Meeting”  on February 1, 2018, and listened to the Town Board members discuss the topics each has accepted as a focal point for possible revision of town procedures, I was struck most by the absence of time set aside for input of any public comment about the motions voted on at the last Town Board Meeting of Jan. 18, 2018, when a majority of the Board voted to “move forward” on two issues which together expended at least $26,000 of taxpayer money.

The first of these issues passed by motions rather than resolutions on Jan.18, 2018, was the assumption of the entire cost of retirement health care for 5 retirees. The names and town connection of these recipients were not given, but Ms. Maas said she was certain that no one had explained to these people that they were responsible for paying their entire supplemental insurance premium, and that was why the taxpayers should pay 50% of it. During the Public Comment section at the end of the meeting, I asked about the connection of these five with the town: employee or elected official. John Welsh said elected official but Ms. Mass said they were “on staff.” (After I asked my question,one, presumably a recipient,  rose and thanked the Board for the retirement money, and that person is a retired elected official who HAD to have known the details of retirement in the Town Code). I was interested in hearing more details aswas Council Member Kelley vote for this motion for this year but said she will follow through with amendments made through the Town Code or employee manual.

Another unaddressed issue at the Jan.18,2018, was the “experiment“ of having the clerk who collects taxes be available in the Town Hall for all Saturdays of Feb through June with or without (not stipulated in the motion) the additional cost of a Town constable.  Council Member Kelley said she could not approve this motion because not all the cost factors were clear; Council Member John Welsh who did vote with the rest of the Town Council to approve did make the point that most of the functions provided could be done by mail. This comment was not addressed by Ms. Maas.

I was hoping during this “working town meeting” of Feb.1,2018 to be able to ask more questions since there had been much to consider after the Jan.18, meeting ended, but Ms. Maas proceeded with no opportunity for input from the six taxpayers who showed up for thisFeb. 1, 2018, meeting. Also this “working meeting” was not televised, so the constituency at large will not be better informed as a result of its having taken place.

 Only one televised and public interactive Town Board Meeting still in existence provides the townspeople with only one opportunity for Public Comment, and that is at the end of the meeting. Placing the Public Comment section only at the end of the meeting  means  the public has very little time to understand or truly consider the implications of topics just discussed, or to offer insights or knowledge about the topic at the beginning of the meeting.

To the credit of the Town Board, it covered many topics: the need for a review of the Town Code, making sure that the Town Handbook and the Town Code (the document to which the town must adhere) are not in conflict, the question of giving the Superintendent of Highways more power over his/her  budget, the need to comply with Dutchess County Civil Service Regulations, the need to have a regular schedule for putting the televised Town Board meeting on television, the need to have a communication strategy, the need for a qualified, consistent audio/visual technician, the need to review the emergency preparedness, the need to review procurement policies, the need to review town employee leave (sick days, payment schedule, personal days), the need to understand employee responsibility in inclement weather, the possibility of a tier system for salaries and leave, updating of internet security, evaluating the escrow needs of the town, and the question of blanket approvals for payment of constant expenses.

At the end of the meeting in a conversation about the upcoming Association of Towns meeting in New York City, the question of the opportunity of giving input to the leadership of the Association was discussed. Councilman Frasier said he felt frustrated by having “no input”; he went on to say that the leadership “makes policy changes” but allows no input.Ms.Maas laughed a bit and asked,” Are they pretending they’re including you?” These comments were of great interest to me and seemed more than a little ironic based on the refusal of the Town Board to take any comments from the constituency during this meeting.

Each member of the Town Board is voted on by the general public, so to that degree there is still taxpayer input. Posted on the Town website is now an invitation to have coffee with the Town Board — a friendly chat is fine, but once again the general constituency is not able to see these conversations videotaped. By refusing to videotape the “working Town Board meeting” the Town has suffered a loss of opportunity for those of us not well connected to the power sources, not able to attend Town Board meetings,  and thus not able to have an equal voice in shaping policy and spending public funds.

Despite all of the admirable attempts on the part of the new Supervisor to get the metaphoric trains running on time, the loss of transparency and public debate may greatly weaken the soundness of our town government.

Town Hall Meeting – January 18, 2018

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?

 

 

  1. Will you consider getting a Recycling Center pass?
  2. 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.

  1. 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   supervisor@unionvaleny.us ; office phone 724-5600

Dave McMorris  mcmorris.uvny@gmail.com ; phone 845-279-5412

Corrina Kelley corrinakelley2015@gmail.com ; phone724-3126

John Welsh councilmanjohnwelsh@gmail.com ; phone 724-7060

Steven Frazier councilmanfrazier@gmail.com; phone 845-227-8475

   Please have your say. Democracy depends on ALL the people being involved.

   Thanks for reading, Anne

 

    

January 8th Town Board Notes

This site will attempt to keep you updated on the Union Vale Town Board meetings, the first of which was held on January 8,2017 due to snow on the prior Thursday.

         All present participated in the Pledge of Allegiance.

  • Then followed the swearing in of those present who will assume office.
  • Ms. Maas then thanked Town Highway Supervisor  Richie Wisseman and his department for doing a good job with snow removal.
  • Ms. Maas then thanked Town Clerk Andrea Casey and her assistant,  Elizabeth Panco, for their fine work enabling residents to pay their 2018 state taxes early.

          New:  Ms. Maas has rearranged the seating of the Town Board. The new arrangement places  Ms. Maas at the head of the table as the only board member whose face is fully  visible to the camera and audience.The other board members look across the       table at each other.

           New: Ms. Maas announced that although the Town Board will continue to hold two monthly meetings, only the second will be televised. Taxpayers may attend bo meetings, but public comments will be accepted only at the second. Ms. Mass said that the first meeting of each month is for signing vouchers and “getting work done  and that “where the money is coming from and who had what bill” to submit is something that the public is “not interested” in.

            Then came the still- in- existence first meeting public comment session.

        Anne McCabe from Darren Rd. ( the author of this page) came forward to ask for the restoration of 13 minutes of video tape of the Nov. 9, 2017 board meeting on the Youtube site. Mrs. McCabe said she was troubled by this editing because she had addressed the topic of the abuse of printed matter on the Republican Facebook site prior to the Nov. 2017 election. Also, Mrs. McCabe indicated that missing from this section was the reading by then supervisor-elect Maas of a letter Maas said was anonymous but which was filled with harsh language.

       Mrs. McCabe followed this comment with two on the innovations of Ms. Maas. First,the table setup did allow the council members to see each other, which  was probably helpful, but since each council member was an elected official who had a constituency and the only person fully visible to Mrs. McCabe from her seat in the assembled public at the meeting was that of Ms. Maas, it seemed that the other elected council members were not being given proper focus. Mrs. McCabe suggested an A formation.

    Secondly, Mrs. McCabe took issue with the idea that the first monthly meeting would not be televised. Mrs. McCabe stated that any meeting of elected representatives which dealt with taxpayers money and the payment of vouchers would be something she felt needed to be televised. At this point Ms. Maas thanked Mrs. McCabe and asked for other public input.

Mrs. Elfrieda Tillman rose to support Mrs. McCabe’s view on the televised meeting.

   The meeting ended.

    And now you, another taxpayer, get to have your say.

If you would like the first and second town board meetings to be televised, please email ALL of the following town board members: councilmanfrazier@gmail.com  mcmorris.uvny@gmail.com corrinakelley2015@gmail.com      councilmanjohnwelsh@gmail.com and supervisor@unionvaleny.us

   Thank you. Please do so before this Thursday, the second town board meeting.