Notes on February 15, 2018 meeting, the once -a -month kind of meeting that is now called the “Official Town Board Meeting”
Just to be clear: this official type of meeting is now the only Town Board Meeting that will have televised documentation. The second “working meeting” does not. Also during this 2/15/18 meeting a three minute cut off on Public Comments was imposed in the middle of a public comment.
At this one Official Town Board Meeting there were several high school students in attendance who were fulfilling their class requirements in civics. As a former high school and college teacher, I cannot say enough about the respect, attention, and courtesy these students exhibited from the beginning of the meeting to the end. I think we can learn a lot from them. Kudos to their parents and teachers!
At 7:00 pm the Board Members met to interview behind closed doors in executive session. All Board members were in attendance. They returned to the Board room.
Ms. Maas revealed that the interview had been with Mr. Dennis Dunning to complete a term on the Zoning Board of
Appeals. She asked the Committee to vote on accepting Mr. Dunning, and they did unanimously.
Then followed the reports.
Ms. Betsy Maas explained some figures on the cash flow statements she had handed to the Board: three were one time annual events: the Cable Vision franchise, the annual payment on a Town bond, and the $15,000 for workers’ compensation.
The review of the Recreation and Parks operations in the Town revealed the need to cut back expenses by $125,000 this year. The heads of the Recreation and Park Departments offered to make cuts that might have involved one redundancy. This word was used by Ms. Maas later in the meeting but no more information was given, so this remains unclear. This term applies to an employee being laid off. At any rate the two departments made some adjustments which added up to a savings of $130,000. If you would like more clarity, please email your Town Board members. Their emails are at the end of this.
Ms. Maas said there needed to be new programs that would attract more residents to sign up for the Recreation programs.
Ms. Maas announced that the audits and policy manuals are in the process of review and suggested that next month there would be drafts of both.
Ms. Maas said the Town has underspent on IT. No further information was given.
The other Town Board Members then got a chance to speak.
Mr. Steve Frazier spoke about his attendance at a forum in Carey Arboretum on “brining,” a process using 30% less salt on the roads in snowy and icy events with a potential for more efficient results. He is comparing costs now in order to recommend purchase. He is also investigating the costs of active trip-edge sections for snow plows. During plowing these would make adjustments for imperfections in the road surface.
Mr. David McMorris reported that he is looking into the Cable Vision contract.
Mrs. Corrina Kelley spoke about the adjustment in the initial seating arrangement which Ms. Maas had mandated at the first Town Board meeting this year. Corrina said that she would like to hear from the constituents about their ability to see all members of the Board now.
Corrina also asked about the time table for playing the tapes of the Official Town Meeting. She had been contacted by a taxpayer who did not use YouTube and who wanted to know when the televised tapes of the Town Board meeting could be seen. Town Clerk Andrea Casey responded and said she will work on that schedule as soon as she can.
Corrina and Betsy will meet with Principal Scott Woods of Union Vale Middle School on Feb. 27 to discuss how better to incorporate the students of the Middle School into the Union Vale community. Corrina suggested that a current fund raising effort for Earth Day in Hyde Park that involves Middle School students might be something that the Town could replicate. Corrina also said that in light of yet another school shooting, the Town needed to discuss how it would assist if the school had a situation. Further, Corrina suggested approaching Arlington High School to see if there might be a possibility of having high school students work as interns on the Town video equipment.
Corrina stated that the vote of the first Official Town Meeting in January which caused the Town to assume 50% of the costs of supplemental insurance for five retirees in the Town needed to be revisited, especially since only one of these beneficiaries of tax payer funds had retired from the Town prior to the Town Code update mandating the increase in their personal contribution to their own insurance. The other four beneficiaries of this tax money having worked as Town officials had to have been aware of the requirement for their full payment of their own supplemental insurance. One of these was a Supervisor during this time who certainly should have known.
John Welsh announced that he is looking at the details of the cuts by the Recreation Department. He said the Parks Dept. needs a new lawn mower and that the Parks Head has done a good job of finding one.
Ms. Maas said that the payment for the LED lighting involved a finance company that is charging high interest, so she wants to discuss paying off that bill. The others thought this was a good use of time.
The Town Highway Supervisor, Mr. Richie Wisseman, did not appear because his family has the flu.
Andrea Casey announced that the Town Calendar is now paired with the Google calendar. She also said that the information about filing for the STAR program is now available.
Ms. Maas said Joan Miller is now in Town Hall on Saturdays.
A discussion of the JCAP grant of $6,000 which the Town was awarded ensued. The Board voted on a motion to purchase court house cameras from New Way because the savings would be $150.00. The work will be done by Town employees.
New Business brought Mr. Peter Bonk of the Union Vale Historical Society to the table to request five hundred dollars from the Town for an historical plaque to be placed on the old freight house which served during the time the railroad ran through the town (1875-1938). Ms. Maas said she felt Mr. Bonk should find monies elsewhere given the status of the Historical Society and the Town’s need to use redundancy. However, the Town would help through publicity. Mr. Bonk asked the public for suggestions. Mrs. McCabe suggested using GoFundMe and contacting railroad enthusiasts who might want to use the venue to advertise their own antique railroad places; also she suggested that Arlington High School might be contacted about the possibility of making a plaque. Kathy Welsh, Adman for the Union Vale Historical Society, offered to promote this cause on the Union Vale Historical Society Facebook page.
Then came the only Public Comment section of the evening. This author, Anne McCabe of Darren Rd., sat at the assigned chair and began by congratulating the Town Board on its work on the new salt spray, the contact with the school, and the cameras for the court. Then she said that having attended the last “Official” Town Board meeting, she found so much had been covered in that one meeting that she would like to clarify her impressions: was a constable hired to be with the clerk on Saturdays? ( answer No) and was that clerk’s job a new one which should have been posted ( answer No—more hours for current employee, Joan Miller)
Mrs. McCabe also asked about why the two votes at that first official meeting were not resolutions but motions although they involved taxpayer monies. Mr. Frazier explained the difference between the two; Mrs. McCabe thanked him and said that a resolution would be more helpful to taxpayers because they could see and hear the exact language that was being voted on.
At this point Ms. Maas said that Mrs. McCabe had spoken three and a half minutes and she should finish. Mrs. McCabe said that there had been no mention of any three minute rule prior to that very second and that in light of the fact that taxpayers could speak at only one meeting a month and only once then (last year there were two opportunities at each meeting to speak—agenda and non-agenda public comments), that three minutes seemed to be limiting public input. Mrs. McCabe pointed out that she had attended the work meeting and at NO time were the taxpayers present asked to comment.
Further Mrs. McCabe said that she had learned that when dealing with representatives who spend tax dollars it is always best to have a public record, although chatting over doughnuts is a pleasant way to spend time.
Ms. Maas then questioned why Mrs. McCabe had not attended meetings last year (the author in April will be six years past the ovarian cancer surgery and chemo routine she had to undergo). Ms. Maas said the Board was not there for entertainment and Mrs. McCabe should run for the Board because she seemed to find it interesting. (The author is thinking about this, but knows some very qualified younger people who might fill the bill better.)
Mrs. McCabe said that what she did know was that elected officials should be in constant contact with their constituency.
Further, having been a negotiator for a contract, Mrs. McCabe fully understood the burden of representing others and leading. Mrs. McCabe finished her questions and took her place in the audience.
Mrs. Hitsman then rose to say that the Supervisor did not need to have a cash -on -hand audit. Ms. Maas agreed.
At this point Corrina Kelley read a resolution calling for a public hearing on the issue of extending the tax reduction for Cold War veterans. The resolution passed unanimously, and the public hearing will take place on March 15, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. prior to the “Official” Town Board meeting.
Another resolution passed unanimously authorizing the Town Board to purchase insurance against any failure by officers or employees of the Town to appropriately handle Town monies.
Meeting was then adjourned.
So What Do You Think?
Should officials who were ethically bound to enforce Town Code be able to claim ignorance of it when it comes to paying the whole cost of their supplemental retirement insurance?
Should only one of the two meetings of the whole Town Board be televised?
Should a three minute rule be applied to Public Comments?
Should there be two types of public comments as in the past?
Agenda items and Non-agenda items?
When redundancies on staff are apparently taking place, should additional Saturday hours be added? Should the Town be paying for supplemental health insurance of elected officials who now appear to claim they had no knowledge of Town Code on this issue? Here follows the email address of your elected officials.
Betsy Maas firstname.lastname@example.org ; office phone 724-5600
Dave McMorris email@example.com ; phone 845-279-5412
Corrina Kelley firstname.lastname@example.org ; phone724-3126
John Welsh email@example.com ; phone 724-7060
Steven Frazier firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 845-227-8475
Please have your say. Democracy depends on ALL the people being involved.
Thanks for reading, Anne