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Insurance pays some funds town lost to theft


KINDERHOOK — The town expects to receive a $300,000 payment from Travelers Insurance Company for money stolen from the town accounts from December 2007 through January 2010.

The town filed the insurance claim after former town bookkeeper Pegeen Mulligan Moore was charged with pilfering more than $336,000. The $300,000 payment is the maximum award on the claim.

After adjourning to a private executive session at its meeting Monday, February 14, the Town Board authorized Town Supervisor Pat Grattan to execute a release and assignment of the insurance claim.

The insurance proceeds are expected to be distributed later this week. The money will be added to the Town General Fund pending review and recommended appropriations by town accountants.

Ms. Mulligan Moore of Valatie was indicted on 18 felony and 2 misdemeanor counts in Columbia County Court last September. She pleaded not guilty on all counts. County District Attorney Beth Cozzolino charges that she stole the money through a series of transfers from the Town of Kinderhook’s bank accounts to her own American Express credit card account.

Earlier Monday night, the focus of the regular board meeting was once again the condition of the town’s roads, as well as the state of the Highway Department’s budget, thanks to several major snowstorms during the past month.

Town Supervisor Pat Grattan thanked Highway Department employees and their superintendent, John Ruchel, for a “very impressive” job of plowing, sanding and salting the roads this winter.

“As you all know, I get up early every morning after a storm and take a drive around town to check the conditions of the roads,” Mr. Grattan said at the monthly meeting Monday evening, February 14. “We’ve had no major accidents this winter. Thank you for a job well done.”

But keeping the roads clear has been an expensive task. Mr. Grattan reported that since January 1 the town of Kinderhook has spent nearly $70,000 for “snow and ice control” and overtime for Highway Department employees.

“And that doesn’t include regular time for those employees,” Mr. Grattan said.

Highway Superintendent Ruchel said the rough winter will also lead to more road costs this spring. “If you’ve noticed the roads are bumpier than usual, that’s because the frost is heaving the roads,” Mr. Ruchel said. “The roads are still lifting and settling, so we can’t yet nail down what streets will need repair in the spring.”

He also brought up another issue: Some town residents and business are pulling up to the town’s sand and salt piles and loading sand and salt into their own vehicles. Some of these people have even gone so far as to “scream and yell” at Highway Department employees who asked them not to take the salt, said Mr. Ruchel.

There was some discussion among board members about ways to avoid this next year. The most popular suggestion was to officially offer a couple truckloads of sand to the public, a policy reportedly used by some other towns in the county.

In other business this week:

*Supervisor Grattan announced an opening on the town’s volunteer Board of Assessment Review (BAR), which approves or denies property tax grievances from town property owners. The board is now accepting applications for the new BAR member, who will be appointed this spring. Mr. Grattan suggested applicants should have some knowledge of real property values and assessments, although the county holds a yearly training session for BAR members.

*The Town Board approved Mr. Grattan’s suggestion for a Recreation Program Workshop Meeting on Saturday, March 5. The supervisor described the workshop as a chance to bring together all the users of the town’s ball fields, as well as the leaders of the summer recreation program.

The fields are used by “the Little League, softball teams, and school leagues,” Mr. Grattan said, “And requests involving the fields usually come in piecemeal. This will get everybody in the room together.”

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