Councilmen cite fiscal woe at annual meeting

WESTERLO — At the most routine of meetings this month, discord surfaced over the town budget that had been unanimously adopted in November.

At its Jan. 7 re-organizational meeting, the town council was voting through appointments and salaries, with Town Clerk Kathleen Spinnato reading each line, when Councilman Alfred Field voted against establishing the salaries and wages for town officials, including his own.

The board then discussed the wages established for laborers A, B, and C for the highway department, eventually deciding that just two divisions would be sufficient to separate workers’ pay for having a commercial driver’s license.

Councilman William Bichteman said the changes would affect only new workers.

Field voted again against the wages, as did Councilman Theodore Lounsbury, so the measure passed, 3 to 2.

“Just so everybody understands, in my opinion, we can’t afford the raise. Their health insurance went up $52,000 this year, and our budget for the township only went up $9,000,” Field said to the 23 people in the gallery.

Supervisor Richard Rapp said in November that the 2014 budget included a 1-percent raise for highway employees.

 “I didn’t quite understand that,” said Rapp. “You didn't want to give anybody a raise, Alfie?”

Highway employee Dawn Belarge said savings could be found in other places besides wages. She suggested the town stop heating the Percy House, a 19th-Century structure that for years the town board had planned to renovate to hold Westerlo’s historic objects.

“Shut the water off, drain it, winterize the house. Nobody occupies it,” said Belarge. “You’ve got a space heater for the time you put work into it.” Field says he hasn’t seen bills for the house.

Resident Anita Marrone suggested the salary for the vacant position of youth coordinator be put toward offsetting the wage increases.

“It’s a start towards putting it somewhere,” said Belarge. “I mean, you’ve got to look at it, we’re on call 24/7. We’re here. When it snows, we’re out there….We haven't gotten a raise in what, four or five years?”

“Three years,” said Rapp. Belarge disagreed.

Lounsbury noted, too, the town is facing high insurance costs.

Bichteman said he is in favor of the raises and believes that, during future meetings, the town board can identify more savings.

“We worked with it,” Belarge said of no raises in the past. “Everything goes up but our pay, and we’re struggling too.”

The wages with increases passed, 3 to 2, with Field and Lounsbury opposed.

For the Jan. 7 re-organizational meeting, the town board:

— Voted, 4 to 1, to establish The Altamont Enterprise as the newspaper for all notices to be published, and The Greenville Pioneer when necessary. Councilman Anthony Sherman opposed. He said, as he did last year, he didn’t like Enterprise editorials about Westerlo;

— Voted, 5 to 0, to establish The National Bank of Coxsackie as the official depository of the town, with maximum deposits at one time not to exceed $250,000 per account;

— Voted, 5 to 0, to authorize the superintendent of highways to purchase equipment, materials, and tools, not to exceed $10,000 for each; to purchase bituminous road oils at the state contract price and to purchase shale at a price not to exceed  $6.75 per yard and not to exceed $20,000 per year; and to enter into contracts for public works for the highway department, not to exceed $20,000, all without prior approval of the town board. No account may be overdrawn;

— Voted, 5 to 0, to reimburse any elected or appointed official rates approved by the Internal Revenue Service when using a personal vehicle for town business;

— Voted, 5 to 0, to establish the town board’s regular meetings on the first Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall, except the November meeting held on the Wednesday following the general election.

The planning board meets on the fourth Tuesday and the zoning board of appeals meets on the fourth Monday of each month, at 7:30 p.m.;

— Established, 5 to 0, that within 60 days of the close of the previous fiscal year the supervisor will submit a copy of the report to the state comptroller, of which the town clerk will publish a summary within 10 days;

— Adopted, 5 to 0, the town’s investment policy and procurement policies and procedures. Spinnato read the investment policy aloud, asked by resident Leonard Laub from the gallery;

— Voted, 5 to 0, to continue to retain Pattison, Koskey, Howe, & Bucci as a financial consultant to the town;

— Resolved, 5 to 0, that the town supervisor may file a copy of his annual financial report with the town clerk, at which time it will be presented to the town board; and

— Authorized the supervisor to pay bills without prior approval of the board.

Appointments

The town board voted unanimously to make the following annual appointments:

— Kathleen J. Spinnato as registrar of vital statistics;

— Gertrude A. Smith as deputy registrar, deputy town clerk, and deputy tax collector;

— Edwin H. Lawson as zoning administrator and deputy supervisor;

— Aline D. Galgay as town attorney;

— Dennis Fancher as town historian;

— Jody Ostrander as dog warden and deputy highway superintendent;

— William Scott III as deputy dog warden;

— Rita Perciballi as planning and zoning boards clerk; and

— Claire Marshall as assessor’s clerk.

Vacancies remained for the deputy code enforcement officer, court clerk, and youth council coordinator.

Salaries

The town board voted, 4 to 1, with Field opposed, to set the following salaries:

— Supervisor at $15,000 per year;

— Deputy supervisor at no pay;

— Superintendent of highways at $56,560 per year;

— Town justices at $10,000 each;

— Council members at $3,625 each;

— Town clerk and tax collector at $34,500 per year;

— Town attorney at $20,000 per year;

— Assessor at $22,000 per year;

— Assessor’s clerk at $17.33 per hour;

— Code enforcement officer at $13,500 per year;

— Deputy code enforcement officer at $8,500 per year

— Zoning administrator at $6,000 per year;

— Deputy town clerk at $17.33 per hour;

— Court clerk at $17.33;

— Dog warden at $4,200;

— Deputy dog warden at $3,000 per year;

— Planning board clerk at $17.33 per hour;

— Zoning board clerk $17.33 per hour;

— Town historian at $1,500 per year; and

— Youth council coordinator at $2,000 per year.

The town board voted, 3 to 2, to approve wages for highway workers. Alfred Field and Theodore Lounsbury were opposed:

— Deputy highway superintendent at $21.05 per hour;

— Transfer station operator at $20.03;

— Recreation maintenance persons at $20.03;

— Utility laborer at $20.03;

— Sub-foreman at $20.53;

— Laborer B at $18.23;

— Laborer A, with a commercial driver’s license, at $19.23; and

— Administrative aid at $18.06 per hour;

New employees are hired on six-month probation and raises are awarded at the discretion of the highway superintendent.

The town board voted, 4 to 1, with Sherman opposed, to approve the following library wages:

— Director at $21.20; clerk 1 at $14.75, clerk 2 at $12.30; clerks 3 and 4 at $12.10; and library page at $8.70.

The town board voted, 3 to 2, with Field and Sherman opposed, to approve the following appointments and salaries to town boards:

— Dawn Belarge to the board of assessment review, with a term ending on Sept. 30, 2015 and a salary of $200. The two other board positions remained vacant;

— Robert Beck, Amie Burnside, William VanIderstine, and John Sefcik as members of the zoning board of appeals, with terms ending on Dec. 31 in 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015, respectively, and salaries of $1,875 each.

— Virginia Mangold as chairwoman of the zoning board of appeals, with a term ending on Dec. 31, 2017 and a salary of $3,375;

— Edwin Stevens, Richard Kurylo, Dorothy Verch, and Gerard Boone as members of the planning board, with terms ending on Dec. 31 in 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014, respectively, and salaries of $1,875 each; and

— Doyle Shaver as chairman of the planning board, with a term ending on Dec. 31, 2018 and a salary of $3,375.

Rapp leaned over to pencil-in the replacement of Verch with Shaver as the board’s chair after Spinnato read the original list of members.

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