Rensselaerville enshrines health benefits for retirees

RENSSELAERVILLE — After learning that it had never authorized the healthcare benefits it has been offering its retirees for decades, the Rensselaerville Town Board voted 4-to-0 on Feb. 8 to provide that authorization, ensuring continued benefits for those who had been receiving them. 

Supervisor John Dolce was absent from the meeting so could not vote. 

Deputy Supervisor Brian Wood told the board that the resolution he proposed did not make any changes to the benefits as they had existed prior to the authorization snafu, despite the cost of retiree benefits growing significantly for many employers. 

In light of those expenses, Wood said that the resolution “was also designed to create a new tier of retirement benefits for people hired after Jan. 1, ’24.” 

At the board’s Jan. 25 meeting, Wood had explained that, if new employees make it to 15 years, the town would pay 80 percent of their health insurance, and 90 percent if they make it to 28 years. 

“My opinion — and from talking to everyone individually — was we want to invest in our employees, but we also want to do away with the Medicare reimbursement,” Wood said.

Wood has long been focused on providing reasonable incentives for employees and volunteers alike, whether it be retirement benefits or merely the latitude to do the work at hand. He’s brought up multiple times over the years the problem the town has attracting talent and public interest in day-to-day operations.

 

Complaints on appointments

Despite an interest in making it easy and desirable for people to get involved with the town, the board was recently criticized by two residents for the way planning board appointments were carried out.

The town board had voted to appoint Brad Churchill and Carol Manziel at its reorganizational meeting in January, with Dolce explaining that the planning board had recommended those two candidates. The vote had been put off to the reorganizational meeting because town board members felt they didn’t know enough about the candidates. 

Resident Brian Dickerson said at the town board’s Jan. 25 meeting that he was one of the planning board applicants who, to his surprise, ultimately was not selected, and that he had not been notified. 

“I actually found out about the board’s decision through a friend on a Wednesday night when I was having a hamburger at Kuhar’s,” he said. 

Resident Craig Miller said he thought the town did not do sufficient outreach to notify residents of the vacancies and should not have held the interviews behind closed doors.

Miller also suggested that the town board should require the planning board to have representatives from each of the hamlets, and that contact information for the board members should be online.

Applicant Sarah Rice wrote in an email to the town board this week that she still was unaware of the status of her application. 

While the town board was sympathetic to the gist of the complaints made in January — having already voted to establish a liaison system so that there’s more communication between the different organs of government — some of the board members pushed back on various aspects.

Wood said that applicants shouldn’t be required to interview in public, and that a mandate to ensure representation of all the hamlets would be difficult since, if the hamlets fail to produce a qualified candidate, the whole board could cease to function. 

He did acknowledge, however, that it was “inappropriate that the people who interviewed were not notified … [about] who was selected and why they weren’t.” 

Wood also said that the board would remember to advertise positions on social media. 

With regard to contact information, Councilman Randy Bates said that, when he was formerly on the planning board, people had contacted him directly on several occasions, which he felt was inappropriate since the issues could be brought up at the open meetings. But said email addresses for the board members under the town’s domain would be “totally fine.” 

Wood concluded by saying that the town “definitely can do a better job of being involved in the process, going over who we appoint and why we appointed them.” 

Dolce had told the board in December that one of the planning board applicants was “very well-qualified” but wasn’t available two months out of the year, which “was a negative.”

More Hilltowns News

  • Anthony Esposito, who lost his house along State Route 145 in Rensselaerville when an SUV crashed into it, setting it on fire, said he had made several requests for guide rails because he had long been concerned about cars coming off the road. The New York State Department of Transportation said that it has no record of any requests.

  • A Spectrum employee was killed in Berne in what the company’s regional vice president of communications called a “tragic accident” while the employee was working on a line early in the morning. 

  • Determining the median income of the Rensselaerville water district will potentially make the district eligible for more funding for district improvement projects, since it’s believed that the water district may have a lower median income than the town overall.

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