Townsend reappointed as Berne’s code-enforcement officer

Enterprise file photo — Noah Zweifel

Chance Townsend addresses the Berne Town Board during a 2020 meeting held at the town park.

BERNE — Chance Townsend has been reappointed as Berne’s code-enforcement officer for another year, beating out two other candidates. 

The town board appointed Townsend at a Jan. 14 special meeting on Deputy Supervisor Dennis Palow’s motion, which passed, 3 to 1, with Joel Willsey, the board’s lone Democrat, voting “nay,” and Mathew Harris — who said earlier this month that he wanted to advertise for a new round of candidates — abstaining. 

The position wasn’t filled at the town’s Jan. 6 reorganizational meeting because, in addition to Willsey voting “nay” and Harris abstaining, as they did this week, Councilwoman Bonnie Conklin also abstained. Three votes of a five-member board are needed to make an appointment.

Conklin told The Enterprise after Townsend’s appointment that she was waiting for Townsend’s certification to be finalized by the Department of State before voting “aye.”

“Paper in hand gets my vote,” said Conklin.

The Enterprise reported in November that Townsend was uncertified because he failed to complete any of the required annual in-service training for 2019 and up to that point in 2020. The board did not acknowledge its error in appointing Townsend illegally, but announced in December that it would advertise to fill the position, along with that of the town’s dog-catcher, based on resident feedback.

Ultimately, both of the 2020 appointments — Townsend as well as Jody Jansen as dog-control officer — were reappointed. Townsend’s certification was reinstated on Dec. 17, according to the Department of State.

Other candidates for the code-enforcement officer position included Timothy Lippert, a Berne resident who formerly served as the town’s building inspector; and Kevin Flensted, of Westerlo, who serves as chief of the Westerlo Volunteer Fire Company.

Normally, because the code-enforcement officer is a competitive-class Civil Service position, the town would need to inform the Albany County Department of Civil Service of its intent to fill the position “to hire off of a list of Certified Eligibles,” according to Albany County Public Information Officer Cameron Sagan.

“However,” Sagan said, “since no list currently exists, Berne may hire provisionally so long as the candidate meets the minimum qualifications. Once an appointment is made, Berne is required to notify the Department of Civil Service.”

Prior to his Jan. 1, 2020 appointment, Townsend had served as the town’s code enforcement officer for 13 months before he resigned in early 2019. He attributed his 2019 resignation to frustrations with the board’s Democratic majority at the time.

Townsend had wanted to turn the part-time position into a full-time one, which the board’s Democrats viewed as unnecessary but with which the two Republicans, Supervisor Sean Lyons and Palow, agreed.

The Democrats had spoken with a labor consultant who thought 15 hours was adequate for a town the size of Berne, which has a population less than 3,000. Ultimately, the board allowed Townsend to work 30 hours per week, up from 15.

Under the current GOP-backed majority board, Townsend will receive a 24-percent raise this year, according to the town’s adopted 2021 budget, bringing his salary from $32,500 to $40,300.

More Hilltowns News

  • It took responders nearly 24-hours to find Wesley L. Knapp, an 82-year-old man from Pennsylvania who was declared missing the night of Sept. 10 after phoning his wife to let her know he was stuck in mud in the Stage Road area of Berne. 

  • This week, the Rensselaerville Town Board moved ahead with a law that would — on paper, at least — allow marijuana dispensaries to operate in the town, scheduling a public hearing for Sept. 28. Meanwhile, discussion about another law, which would regulate Airbnbs and other short-term rentals, was paused for lack of urgency.

  • Under the belief that an auto dealer would be setting up in Rensselaerville, dozens of residents showed up at a planning board hearing to learn that that was not the case — but it didn’t stop them from airing their grievances anyway.

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