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Ghent applies rescue funds to build out broadband


GHENT—The Town Board has approved using federal funds from ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act of 2021) to finish a plan to make broadband internet access available to all residents. The board designated the funds for that purpose at the July 21 board meeting.

The town received over $420,000 in ARPA funds and will use about $180,000 to complete the broadband project. Town Board member Patti Matheney said she hopes that the project would be done by the end of the year. The town has contracts with two providers, Mid-Hudson Cable and Consolidated Communications.

Town Supervisor Craig Simmons said Ms. Matheney had been “incredible” at negotiating contracts with those companies.

Councilwoman Matheney said it had taken seven years to finish this project in Ghent. “We have worked really hard to get this accomplished,” she said. She stressed that now, “I want the county to do their part” in making broadband available to the rest of the county.

She said that the County Board of Supervisors received $11 million in ARPA funds. “Some of it should go to broadband,” she said.

‘I want the county to do their part.’

Town Board Member Patti Matheney

Town of Ghent

Supervisor Simmons said the town would “lead by example.”

Ms. Matheney pointed out that the supervisor has a vote at the county Board of Supervisors.

Also at the meeting:

• The board accepted a $5,000 grant from NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) the town received for signing up residents to the town’s Community Solar campaign. The funds will go toward motion-sensor lights at the highway garage and recycle bins

• The board approved putting out bids on exterior work at the Ghent Town Hall Building. The town has $275,000 in state aid, a grant that came through Assemblymember Didi Barrett’s office, to do the restoration work on the building. Due to redistricting, Ghent will no longer be in the assemblymember’s 106th district next year, and Supervisor Simmons said that he hoped that “our next representative does as much work” for the town as Assemblymember Barrett (D) has done

• The board also had on the agenda to set a public hearing on creating the position of confidential assistant to supervisor. Supervisor Simmons pointed out that five other towns in the county have this position.

Councilwoman Matheney and Councilwoman Koethi Zan (D) had questions and concerns, especially about a position that would be appointed solely by the supervisor. The board held a closed door executive session to further discuss the issue since it was about the employment of a certain individual. After the executive session they voted to hold a public hearing on the position on August 25 at 6:55 p.m.

The next Town Board meeting will be Thursday, August 25 at 7 p.m. at the Ghent Town Hall, 2306 Route 66. There is a workshop meeting at 6:30 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

Town eyes hate speech rebuttal

GHENT—The Town Board also heard from residents who earlier this month found handmade signs on their front lawns reading “BABY KILLERS LIVE HERE” (see story “Anti-abortion hate speech pops up in Ghent” in the July 14 issue). Both signs were on properties on county Route 9 and both homeowners spoke during the public comment period at the July 21 Town Board meeting. Christopher Burke told the board that he was “really, really upset” when he found the sign and immediately called the Sheriff’s Office.

“There is something going on in this area that needs to be addressed…by the town,” he said.

Bill Teitler, who found a sign on his property the same day as Mr. Burke, was at a meeting with his wife, Nancy Doyne. He asked the board, “What’s the motivation of the person who placed that sign?”

Town Supervisor Craig Simmons said a few times that the signs were “horrible” and said he was sorry it had happened to those families. He also said that he had put “several inquiries out” about the signs and found out that it had only happened in Ghent. “It wasn’t countywide,” he said.

“I have a feeling we are going to have answers to it,” he said of finding out who placed the signs. New information was reported in a Clarification that ran in The Columbia Paper on July 21 (on page 2 of the issue). The Clarification explained that materials used to make the handwritten posters were allegedly stolen from the Claverack Free Library. According to two sources familiar with matter, and briefly discussed at the Town Board meeting, vandals allegedly stole a library food truck sign from the library lawn. The library reported the disappearance of the sign to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office after receiving information it was used for hate speech.

At the Town Board meeting there was also a suggestion that the board make a statement and have some follow up on the “No Hate Here” resolution that they passed earlier this year.

“I think those are great ideas,” said Councilwoman Koethi Zan.

Councilwoman Patti Matheney thanked the residents for coming forward.—Emilia Teasdale

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