Berne begins year anew with Jordan
The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia
Dawn Jordan, Berne’s newest council member, signs her name on an oath of office before the re-organizational meeting on New Year’s Day. Anita Clayton, right, swore the oath of office and officially started her first term as the town clerk. Jordan was a planning board member and serves as secretary of the Helderberg Hilltowns Association. Jordan lost a bid for the seat she now occupies when, in 2011, she was third in a four-way race. The top vote-getter in that race, Bonnie Conklin, resigned in November.
BERNE — Democrat Dawn Jordan was given the seat she lost to Republican Bonnie Conklin in 2011 after Conklin resigned. Jordan recently was appointed by the four remaining Democrats on the town council.
Jordan lives in a house built by her great-great-grandfather and keeps as an heirloom from the Anti-Rent War a warrant for his arrest boycotting taxes. She has been involved as a citizen volunteer in several facets of town government.
“I’d like to encourage people to come to the town board meetings, because, as I’ve found out myself, you really don’t know what’s going on on a month-to-month basis in the town unless you do,” said Jordan. She also encouraged people to call and e-mail her.
The board interviewed a list of candidates and appointed Jordan on Dec. 28. Many of the candidates had time constraints, Supervisor Kevin Crosier said of the board’s selection, and cited Jordan’s record of involvement in the town.
Jordan was appointed to the planning board in April 2013 and led a research committee that studied the gas-extraction process of high-volume hydraulic fracturing for the town. She spoke during the board’s discussion on wind turbines and volunteered on the committee that organized a large festival in the town park this past August.
Jordan said after the Jan. 1 re-organizational meeting that, with at least five years of attending local meetings, she joined the board because she cares about Berne and is interested in its government.
Of whether only Democrats were interviewed for the position, Crosier said he never asked about enrollment. He noted the board appointed Jeffrey Harvey, a Republican, to fill Jordan’s vacancy on the planning board.
“We want the best people for the job and the people who are going to help get Berne ahead,” said Crosier.
Conklin won a four-year term running on Republican and Conservative party lines in the 2011 election. She had the most votes in the four-way race and 8.5-percent more of the vote than Jordan, who ran on the Democratic line and came in third. Jordan did not run for one of the two board terms won by incumbents this past November.
Jordan will serve by appointment for 2014. The person to serve the final year of Conklin’s term is to be elected in November and take office in January 2015. Jordan told The Enterprise she expects to run.
After her resignation in November, Conklin expressed frustration with her work on the board and her vision of members working together. She said her time was constrained by a full-time job and board meetings.
Though most of her votes were with the rest of the board, Conklin voted against adopting the town’s budget for each of her two years, felt her resolution opposing the state’s gun-control law was disregarded by other board members, and said she was uncomfortable in executive session when the town’s court was criticized.
At the re-organizational meeting for 2013, Conklin voted against approving salaries and wages.
Conklin said she plans to have a more active role in organizing for the town’s Republican candidates and did not rule out holding public office in the future.
Dawn Goodfellow Jordan
A Berne-Knox-Westerlo graduate, Jordan said she is the fifth generation of her family living in Berne.
When a neighbor wanted to change the road she lives on from seasonal to year-round use, Jordan told The Enterprise, she attended a town board meeting where the issue was discussed. She said she was impressed by the town board’s openness to public comment.
Jordan said, from that point on, she regularly attended town, planning, and conservation board meetings.
“I had never really sat down and thought about what it takes to run a municipality,” said Jordan. “You’ve got five people, and they represent everybody in the town, and they do a lot of work. There’s a lot of pieces to the puzzle they have to deal with.”
Early on, Jordan and her husband, Ronald Jordan, followed and advised the town’s process of researching and developing a wind-energy facility law, passed in March this year.
When Shell WindEnergy considered the Hilltowns for a wind farm, the Jordans formed Helderberg Community Watch, an organization to encourage and publicize research of the potential impacts of large-scale wind turbines.
Jordan chaired the town’s committee to study high-volume hydraulic fracturing and its potential impact on the town. Its report from July 2012 concludes that hydraulic fracturing poses risks to Berne’s natural resources that outweigh its potential benefits.
“Certain things that are threats are heavy industry, corporate-sized or big-box industry or stores, things like that that have impact, like traffic and construction, all of those things can be threats to things the people in the town of Berne value,” said Jordan. She referred to a survey conducted for the comprehensive plan that showed Berne residents overwhelmingly want to protect the rural town’s clean natural resources.
Appointed to the planning board in April, Jordan recused herself from discussion and votes that involved the hydrofracking report.
Of recusing herself for similar business on the council, Jordan said, “I think I would check with the attorney on that and see what he recommended to do.”
Jordan’s husband chaired the zoning board of appeals, which hears appeals to decisions made by the planning board or zoning enforcement officer, voting on requests for special-use permits and variances. The planning board can submit advisory opinions on appeals or applications to the zoning board.
Jordan said the town attorney advised that one of them hold a seat, not both. Her husband resigned in April.
On the planning board, Dawn Jordan looked at zoning ordinances from other towns and legal definitions to rewrite the regulations for home businesses in the zoning ordinance. The part of the law allowing for businesses on residential properties was unclear for the building inspector, Jordan said, and somewhat restrictive.
Jordan is currently secretary of the Helderberg Hilltowns Association and was previously its vice president. The group was formed to promote local economy, community, and agriculture and has created a community market in the Berne hamlet. It organizes events in the Hilltowns around farms, artisans, and the maple season.
Prior to her run for office in 2011, Jordan taught music at Helderberg Christian School and had worked as a pharmacist at the old Jefferson Heights Memorial Hospital in Catskill until her children were born. She now cares for her elderly mother full-time.
A full gallery of about 30 people watched as the town’s officials raised their right hands and were sworn into office by town Attorney William Conboy on New Year’s Day.
Elected officials who swore oaths beginning their full terms were Kevin Crosier as supervisor; Alan Zuk and Albert Raymond as town judges; Joseph Golden, Wayne Emory, and Dawn Jordan as council members; Anita Clayton as town clerk; Melanie Bunzey as an assessor; and Gerald O’Malley as tax collector.
After the oaths were taken, Crosier called the re-organizational meeting to order and spoke of his gratitude for the town’s emergency responders, highway workers, transfer-station workers, and community members who helped plan for the sewer project and the new library. He also acknowledged the town’s state and federal legislators and county leaders.
“They’re the wheels that make the town turn every day,” Crosier said of the town’s clerks.
Crosier said the renovation of the town hall would be “critical” in the coming year. He said after the meeting that engineering studies of the building were done with state grant money as his last full term ended in 2009 and the town board will begin planning this month.
The town’s comprehensive land-use plan is under review, Crosier noted as he spoke to the gallery, with a goal in the new year to open areas for small-business uses.
“This year, we will be embarking on a senior meals program,” Crosier said. Trips in a new senior van in Berne were started this year, after a bus route into the Hilltowns had been discontinued in 2012.
The five-member board voted unanimously to make the following appointments on Jan. 1:
— Joseph Golden as deputy supervisor;
— Kevin Crosier as director of emergency management;
— Anita Clayton as registrar of vital statistics and deputy tax collector;
— William J. Conboy II as legal counsel;
— William J. Conboy III, the town attorney’s son, as deputy legal counsel;
— Cheryl Tefft-Baitsholts as dog-control officer;
— Brian Crawford as chairman of assessors;
— Patricia Favreau as deputy registrar of vital statistics, deputy town clerk, and marriage officer;
— Frances O’Malley, the tax collector’s wife, as second deputy tax collector;
— Andrea Borst as senior account clerk;
— Stacy Loucks as court clerk;
— Ralph Miller as historian;
— Jeffrey Alexander as solid-waste coordinator;
— George Christian as zoning board of appeals chairman;
— John Carsten to a five-year term on the zoning board of appeals;
— Gerard Chartier as planning board chairman;
— Jeffrey Harvey to a five-year term on the planning board;
— Emilie Wright as chairwoman of the board of assessment review;
— Debra Flagler to a five-year term on the board of assessment review;
— Kathleen Moore as chairwoman of the conservation board;
— Jon Kusler, Randy Grippen, and Moore to two-year terms on the conservation board;
— Kathleen Stempel and Stefanie Scram to two-year terms on the youth council;
— JoAnne Brady and Janet Adams to five-year terms on the library’s board of trustees;
— Marc Shultes, Douglas Rivenburg, and Jeffrey Alexander as wastewater treatment plant operators; and
— Kathleen Stempel as custodian.
Vacancies remained for a secretary to the planning and zoning boards, a planning board post, and a three-year term on the library’s board of trustees.
The board voted unanimously to approve the annual salaries and wages for the following positions:
— Supervisor at $18,300;
— Town judges at $9,100 each;
— Councilmembers at $3,460 each;
— Town clerk at $38,380;
— Highway superintendent at $51,200;
— Tax collector at $6,660;
— Chairman of the assessors at $12,480;
— Assessor 1 at $11,544 and Assessor 2 at $7,000;
— Building inspector and code enforcement officer at $13,676;
— Legal counsel at $12,400;
— Deputy legal counsel at $10,000;
— Dog control officer at $5,900;
— Senior account clerk at $47,320;
— Registrar of vital statistics at $1,050;
— Planning board chair at $2,392;
— Planning board members at $1,716 each;
— Zoning board chair at $468; and
— Zoning board members at $260 each.
The board also unanimously set these hourly salaries:
— Deputy town clerk at $15.98;
— Planning and zoning boards secretary at $15.98;
— Highway department employees at $19.55;
— New highway department employees at $18.55;
— Winter highway department employees at $16;
— Summer highway department employees at $14.04;
— Parks and cemeteries caretaker at $14.04;
— Seasonal youth employees for parks at $10;
— Compactor operator at $15.98;
— Solid-waste coordinator at $15.98;
— Wastewater treatment plant operators at $20; and
— Custodian at $15.60.
Jurors are to be paid $10 per day.
In other business, the town board voted unanimously to pass the following motions:
— To designate First Niagara as the official depository bank and The Altamont Enterprise as the official newspaper of the town;
— To authorize the highway superintendent to spend up to $1,000 on tools and equipment without prior approval from the board;
— To meet the second Wednesday of every month at 8 p.m. for the town board’s regular meeting, and every fourth Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. when necessary;
— To authorize the supervisor to pay all utility bills and salaries without prior approval from the board;
— To authorize the highway superintendent to purchase fuel through state contracts;
— To authorize the supervisor to enter into an agreement with Community Caregivers for administration of senior van service;
— To authorize the supervisor to have 60 days to file an annual report with the comptroller;
— To authorize the supervisor to enter into an agreement with the town’s library.
— To authorize the reimbursement of training expenses for the tax collector, town clerk, and town judges;
— To authorize the highway superintendent to renew a memorandum of understanding about the Stream Protection Law between the town and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation;
— To authorize the supervisor to enter into an agreement with Albany County for participation in Advanced Life Support services, at a cost not to exceed $74,000;
— To authorize the supervisor to enter into an agreement with Helderberg Ambulance, not to exceed $55,000; and
— To designate Joseph Golden as the board’s liaison to the highway department and the library, Wayne Emory as liaison to the zoning and planning boards, Karen Schimmer as liaison to the sewer board, senior citizens, and the youth council, and Dawn Jordan as liaison to the conservation board.