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Town wants state to referee road repair dispute


HILLSDALE—The June 24 meeting of the Town Board was dominated once again by discussion of whether plowing and other maintenance of municipal parking lots, rights of way and walkways would be paid for from the Highway Department budget managed by Highway Superintendent Richard Briggs or from the town’s general fund.

A draft of an agreement was read, which stated that if the highway superintendent did not perform required maintenance on these roads, the board had the right to contract the work independently and charge the work to the Highway Department budget.

“I am not going to sign this document because it is not a legal document,” said Mr. Briggs.

Town Attorney Dick Alford said that the essential question was, “What is a highway for the purposes of section 284. This isn’t really defined, and the board should define it.”

Board Member Carmen Barbato requested that the minutes of a previous meeting be reviewed so that the board could check whether $32,000 that had been removed from the highway budget for maintenance included plowing. “If it’s the town, fine. If it’s Rich, fine,” said Mr. Barbato. But Mr. Barbato said he was more concerned with getting a ruling and putting the issue behind them.

Board member Jill Sims-Elster agreed.

In a reference to the state’s chief financial agency, Mr. Alford said, “There was a time when you could send this to the Comptroller’s Office to get an opinion. They can’t do it anymore due to budget constraints.”

Board member Steve Tiger asked if Supervisor Art Baer and Mr. Alford could request an opinion from the comptroller anyway, because they were the only two people with the authority to ask for a ruling. Mr. Baer agreed.

Mr. Briggs said that the bill for plowing in 2012 still hadn’t been paid. When Mr. Alford asked how much the bill was, Mr. Briggs said, “The whole issue was less than a grand, I believe.”

Laughing, Supervisor Baer said, “We’re not talking about a lot of money here. Let’s get this done.” Mr. Baer then asked the town Highway Committee to meet and give a recommendation that all parties could agree upon.

Also at this week’s meeting:

Ms. Sims-Elster reported that there is full enrollment for the summer program, and it will begin the week after the Fourth of July

•Ms. Sims-Elster also said that opening day of the Copake/Hillsdale farmers’ market was a “record-breaking event,” with 500 attendants and 20 vendors

•Mr. Tiger reported that the May electronic newsletter had a record level of interest based on the percentage of newsletter files that were opened

•The board also discussed the emergency plan, with Mr. Tiger saying that the town will be sending out a postcard to all residents of Hillsdale asking them to register with the Columbia County emergency system and sign up for the newsletter mailing list. People can register with the county plan if they are disabled or homebound so that emergency responders will know if they require special assistance in an emergency

•Mr. Briggs said that the installation of new speed limit signs is 75% complete

•Mr. Baer discussed the fact that the Board of Assessment recently had a situation where two of the three members could not attend a meeting. He said that if the assessment board did not have sufficient members for a quorum in the future, the issues before that board would be referred to the county. “It’s never happened in a hundred years in Columbia County,” said Mr. Baer. He said that he strongly recommends that the number of people on the board be raised from three to five. The positions will be advertised, and there will be a public hearing. Then the board will adopt a local law increasing the number of seats on the Board of Assessment

•The town’s current health insurance provider is raising its rates. In response, Mr. Baer said that he has been petitioning to allow towns to participate in the county insurance pool. “Self-insurance in a large pool would be beneficial in the long term,” he said. “I’ve been town supervisor for 11 years and I’ve changed insurance five times”

•The Hamlet Committee made a brief presentation on a branding project in Hillsdale. The board passed in support of the project but will not contribute financially. The Hamlet Committee noted that the project would not require businesses to change anything.


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