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Chatham trims mandate of conservation advisors

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CHATHAM–The town will soon be looking for qualified residents to join its newly-created Conservation Advisory Council (CAC). After several months of debate over the revised local law, the Board passed a resolution at its October 18 meeting that creates the advisory board.

The revised law passed by a four to one vote, with Councilman Bob Balcom dissenting. Mr. Balcom supports creating the CAC, but asked for more time to look at the exact wording of the law.

“This law isn’t perfect and it does require more examination,” he said during the discussion prior to the vote.

In a letter to the other four Town Board members last month, Mr. Balcom wrote that the law is not “representative of the [town’s] comprehensive plan.” He requested that the law include more specific language regarding the council’s advisory role related to environmental protection and management.

Under state municipal law, town boards are authorized to appoint CACs to advise town officials, including zoning and planning boards, on issues related to natural resources.

The general debate in Chatham has been over how much authority to give to the CAC. Several members of the community have spoken to the board about the revisions to the law, expressing disappointment that the new law seems to give the council less authority than the one previously on the books.

Before the vote, Town Supervisor Jesse DeGroodt repeated a statement he has made several times about the advisory role designated in the new law. “I’m leery of creating another legislative body,” said Mr. DeGroodt. “But I’m willing to adjust the law and go further, if this works well.”

In other business the board:

*Heard Mr. DeGroodt give updates on repair projects for two bridges in town, which were both good news. “I can’t believe I’m saying this,” he said. Mr. DeGroodt said the White Mills Road Bridge project is moving forward and on target for the state Department of Transportation to request bids in early 2013 and start construction in the spring.

The supervisor also said CSX which owns the East Chatham Bridge over the company’s railroad tracks, is still on board  to make repairs needed to bring the bridge back to its original 20-ton limit. The next step is an early November conference call with CSX and Chatham Highway Superintendent Joe Rickert.

*Heard town Comptroller Earle Kelsey discuss options for funding $1.2 million in capital expenditures for highway equipment through either a bond or a bond anticipation note. Mr. Kelsey said he is in the midst of discussions with the bank and will have more information at the board’s next budget workshop meeting.

*Scheduled two public hearings before its next regular meeting November 15. The first hearing, at 7 p.m., addresses a proposed local law to override the state’s 2% cap on property tax increases for 2013. The subject of the second hearing, which starts immediately after the first, is on the proposed 2013 town budget.

*Agreed to contract with Rochester-based eWaste, also known as Regional Computer Recycling & Recovery, for recycling of electronic equipment. At no cost to the town, eWaste will set up a large bin to collect electronic waste from Chatham residents.

*Held a closed-door executive session after the regular meeting to address two issues. Supervisor DeGroodt said afterwards that the board voted to hire Deborah Cefternino as deputy town comptroller starting immediately through the end of the year. She will be paid an $800 stipend for training the next two months with Comptroller Earle Kelsey, who is retiring December 31. Ms. Cefternino will then take over the comptroller job in January.

*Discussed potential litigation related to damage to town-owned property by a local utility. Mr. DeGroodt said he is unable to discuss details at this time.

 

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