GNH Lumber February 2024

Exiting K’hook officials look back on their record

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KINDERHOOK – March 11 was supposed to be the last board meeting for Mayor James “Jim” Dunham and Trustee Richard “Rich” Phillips. Both did not run for reelection on March 18. But on March 16, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order delaying village elections statewide until the April 28 primary election.

“Our top priority has been keeping New Yorkers safe and stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus,” Governor Cuomo said in a press release. “Public health officials have been clear that reducing density is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread, and delaying village elections will help ensure poll workers and voters are not potentially exposed to the virus and at the same time maintain integrity in our election system.”

Mayor Dunham joined the board in 1996 and was mayor from 2002 to 2006 and then again from 2016 to the present. While he was not on the board he helped manage the sewer project that connected buildings in the village business district to the Village of Valatie wastewater treatment plant.

Former mayor and current trustee, Rich Phillips, and current Mayor Jim Dunham, attended what was supposed to be their last Village Board meeting on March 11. They are pictured in front of the wall of photographs of former village mayors going back to 1838. Photo by Emilia Teasdale

Mr. Phillips said he was leaving the board after 35 years in village government. He was mayor from 1996 to 2002 and trustee ever since.

Both men thanked the staff and their fellow trustees. “I’m proud of all of them,” Mr. Phillips said of his follow board members.

Mr. Dunham said of the village, “We’ve got something special here, and we want to keep it going.”

Trustee David Flaherty took a few moments at the beginning of the meeting to thank Mr. Dunham and Mr. Phillips for their “devotion to public service.”

Of Mr. Dunham, he said, “His ability to mediate and always listen to both sides is every bit as significant as his commitment to the sewer project and revitalization of the historic district, as well as being the point person for the Albany-Hudson Electric Trail. Both of these projects will have profound difference in quality of life for village residents.”

Mr. Flaherty pointed out that not only did Mr. Phillips sit on the board, he also served on the Zoning Board of Appeals and as village assessor. “His contributions include being the initial voice and moving the sewer project forward as well as being the liaison to the Climate Smart Committee, helping bring the village into the 21st century,” Mr. Flaherty said.

Current Trustee Dale Leiser is the only person running for mayor. Mr. Leiser used a video conference call to participate in the March 11 meeting.

As for the sewer project, Mr. Dunham said the board would have to discuss increasing the fee the property owners pay for the service. The mayor said there was an issue with rags in the system so the pumps had to be changed. He said the costs for the changes were “pretty extensive.” The board plans to discuss the cost at their budget meetings this month for the 2020-21 budget. Village budgets run from June through May. They need to be sent to the state by the end of April. Though now that village election have been moved to later in April the timing of the budgets may also change. The current board will create the new budget but it will be approved by the new board members who were supposed to take office on April 6. As of March 17, the village office did not have word from the state about how changing the election date would effect current office holders or the new budget.

At the March 11 meeting, the board also briefly discussed the proposed short-term rental law. They had planned to set a public hearing to move forward with passing the law, but Code Enforcement Office Peter Bujanow had several questions about the proposal.

“It’s all about safety,” said Mr. Bujanow of his concerns with the proposed law. He said he also looked at the current village code and how that fit with the proposed law. He said that currently long-term rentals are reinspected every two years, which he thought would be a good idea for short-term rentals. He wanted to see how the short-term rental would impact the septic system and if they have smoke detectors and the required number of exits. He said they might want a two-person-per-sleeping-room regulation.

The board agreed to have the Planning Board look at Mr. Bujanow changes.

Mr. Bujanow is also going to look at the proposed local laws on Temporary Storage Containers and Dumpsters.

The board held public hearings on the laws before the Wednesday night meeting but decided not to vote on them. The mayor said, “I think we get Peter to take a closer look.”

The next village meeting was scheduled for April 8 but that may be delayed. An email from the village on March 17 reads, “Due to the Columbia County Board of Supervisors declaration of a State of Emergency because of the ‘Coronavirus disease 2019’ (COVID-19), the Mayor of the Village of Kinderhook has closed the village offices until further notice.”

The release also says that garbage stickers may be purchased at the Stewarts on Route 9.

Also, following directions from the State of New York, the Department of Public Works (DPW) will be working at a 50% staffing until March 31. The Code Enforcement Officer’s office will be closed and he will not have normal business hours. Mr. Bujanow will be working mainly from home and may be contacted at 518-758-8778 x 302. He will be available for inspections as needed. Applications for building permits, etc. may be downloaded from the village’s website.

The normally scheduled Historic Preservation Commission meeting on March 19 and the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on March 23 have both been canceled. The status of other upcoming meetings will be provided by email blasts and on the village website at www.villageofkinderhook.org. The village can also be contacted at 518 758-9882 or email the village at okvillagehall@villageofkinderhook.org.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email eteasdale@columbiapaper.com

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