By DOUG LAROCQUE
NEW LEBANON–The Town Board meetings usually begin with the first of two public comment sessions, and at the January meeting, there were a lot of comments made. The majority pertained to one subject – a request by town board member Craig Skerkis to be able to conceal carry a weapon on town property. He contends the town policy allows it. The members of the public who spoke were not so sure and were vehemently opposed. The policy, as read by Town Supervisor Tistrya Houghtling, was a bit ambiguous. Councilman Skerkis indicated he believed New York State’s laws concerning conceal carry had been struck down by a federal appeals court.
Town board member Susan Tipograph, who by profession is an attorney, put a lot of time in researching the subject. She told her fellow board members that portions of the law were indeed at least put on hold by the court, but they took no action on the provision that bans weapons in sensitive places, and that town property, in particular the town hall, is considered a sensitive place. She added that even if town policy did allow such concealed carry, the state law trumps that town policy.
In light of the public opposition and considering Councilwoman Tipograph’s research, Mr. Skerkis decided to withdraw his request. He stated he was in his opinion sticking up for his right with all the required permits to conceal carry. He called it a matter of principle.
The board also heard concerns about the future of the newly opened Community Center, ranging from attendance, to cost and the building’s future. It is in the former New Lebanon Valley Protective Association’s firehouse. The agreement between the association and the town allows the center and the Free Store to operate for a year. After that there is some uncertainty. Will the association sell the building? Will the town have to make an offer to buy it, and how is it accepted by the community? Is there enough usage to justify it? All questions to which there was not an immediate answer.
Supervisor Houghtling and board members agreed that there has to be a concerted effort to “get the word out” about the center, which while geared primarily for children, is open to adult usage too.
Also at the meeting, Town Hall security was revisited. Following an incident last year the entrance door has been locked and anyone wishing to enter the building needs to be escorted in. Last fall, the board considered purchasing bullet proof doors, but the cost and inability to find someone to install such led to that idea being placed on the proverbial back burner.
Security concerns of town employees is still at the forefront, and it was decided to have a board liaison talk with these employees as to what they would like to see done before taking any further steps.
Local Law # 8, concerning the construction of new commercial self-storage units or the expansion of existing facilities was approved. The issues have been back and forth between the board and the Zoning Rewrite Committee for months.
The town has received a large grant from New York State to construct a walking trail around Shatford Park, which would be ADA compliant. It was hoped construction could begin shortly, but Supervisor Houghtling said some legal language needs to be worked out first.