New Scotland fills new planner post with former consultant

Enterprise file photo — Sean Mulkerrin

The New Scotland Town Board this week OK’d a contract with Nan Stolzenburg’s firm to become the town’s planner.

NEW SCOTLAND — The town board has chosen its consultant planner to be New Scotland’s first contracted planner: Nan Stolzenburg. 

“As part of our recent building department revisions and changes, we have sought to bring in a planner,” said Councilman William Hennessy during a special Sept. 22 virtual town board meeting. “For a few years now, the town’s pursued a part-time relationship with a consultant for planning purposes,” Hennessy said of Stolzenburg.

And so, the town decided to formalize its relationship with Stolzenburg and her firm, agreeing to an annual contract with Community Planning & Environmental Associates not to exceed $60,000.

The agreement is effective Oct. 1.

Stolzenburg worked with the town on its comprehensive plan. 

She was also the consultant to the villages of Altamont and Voorheesville on their comprehensive plans as well as for the towns of Berne and Rensselaerville. 

Town attorney Michael Naughton noted the contract was a one-year agreement that, if the town board chose, would have to be renewed at its annual reorganizational meeting, in January. As for this year’s contract with Stolzenburg, it’s prorated for the fourth quarter of 2021. 

“The way the fees are set up is [Stolzenburg] continues to bill on an hourly basis, according to the schedule in the agreement, and this is consistent with the existing master agreement we have with her entity,” Naughton said. 

Stolzenburg herself will provide the town about 18 billable hours per month at a cost of $110 per hour.

Veronica Soeller, a Stolzenburg associate, appears to be taking on the duties of an in-house planner, with her availability being 12 to 16 hours per week (eight of those hours at Town Hall) at a cost of $60 per hour. 

The agreement with Community Planning & Environmental Associates lists a dozen essential functions — where the phrases “coordinate,” “review,” and “assist” in the planning process occur repeatedly — the planner will have, under the general supervision of Building Inspector Jeremy Cramer.

Naughton said of the town’s agreement with Stolzenburg, “So really, in many ways, this is not a lot different than what we already have had for a number of years. We’re just increasing scope and, along with a scope of work to be done. And along with that, the scope of available funds against which she can bill to perform those services.”

 

Part-time help

The retirement of the town’s code-enforcement officer led the town board to examine who should be helping with the direction of the municipality’s future planning and zoning. 

For some time, the board has discussed bringing the building department, “essentially [into] the 21st Century, where we have more of a planner handling some of the planner duties. Because in our town, historically, with our zoning, the building inspector has handled all of these duties,” Hennessy said during an April board meeting. 

At issue for the board was whether to continue to allow Cramer to handle all things planning and zoning and hire a full-time replacement for the retiring code-enforcement officer, Jeff Pine, or to make Pine’s post part-time and hire the town’s first professional planner on a part-time basis. 

Historically, a significant portion of the building inspector’s time was spent handling planning and zoning items, Hennessy said in April, which is a practice that’s “long been done by the smaller towns.”

But, as time progresses and the town grows, he said, “we need to focus [on] ... proper procedures … with our projects,” which means having a part-time town planner. If the town were to hire a part-time code-enforcement officer now rather than being locked into a full-time position, Hennessy said, it would give the town wiggle room in the budget to pay for a planner.

In June, the town hired two part-time code-enforcement officers to take over for Pine — Lance Moore, who was Altamont’s code-enforcement officer and building inspector, and Timothy Lippert, Berne’s former building inspector and a current Democratic nominee for town board. Lippert works now as the building inspector and code-enforcement officer for Rensselaerville as well.

Moore and Lippert each work two days a week for six hours a day for New Scotland and are paid $30 per hour, which translates to $37,440 annually for the two code-enforcement officers; neither receives benefits. 

Their combined 24 hours per week is more than the town was planning for. 

“It was known that we’re going to hire up to 19-1/2 hours at the most because we wanted it to stay as a part-time position,” the June 2021 meeting minutes state. “We did have a budget and this particular avenue of hiring them both at 12 hours each per week at $30 per hour was less than what we were paying the previous Code Enforcement Officer full-time. We just felt that we could get an extra 4-1/2 hours to help [Cramer] and he was very happy with that.”

With Stolzunberg’s $60,000 contract and two part-time code-enforcement officers accounting for $37,440, the $97,440 figure is quite a bit more than Pine’s approximately $52,000 salary

Supervisor Douglas LaGrange told The Enterprise that the math isn’t that straightforward. 

For the past two to three years, the town has had $20,000 set aside for a planner, which is included as part of Stolzenburg’s $60,000 contract, LaGrange told The Enterprise on Friday. And, LaGrange said,“as I recall, we’ve never reached a $20,000 plateau with the planner.” 

For 2020, there was $20,000 set aside — about $11,300 was spent, according to line-item data from the state Comptroller’s Office. In 2019, the town set aside $23,000 and used about $4,300, according to the Comptroller’s Office. The budget line for a contract planner in 2021 was $28,256. 

 So, the money is really Pine’s salary and his full-time benefits — which LaGrange couldn’t immediately confirm — plus the $20,000.

“So we’d like to keep it within the budget from the past years, by going to part-timers in [Pine’s] position and bringing the planner in for eight hours a week, in-house,” he said. “These next three months will be kind of a trial run at: Are we getting to where we want to be without investing a lot, or a lot more than we used to?”

More New Scotland News

  • The village of Voorheesville and the Altamont Free Library wrote letters over the summer to the Surface Transportation Board, the federal agency charged with economic oversight of the nation’s major freight carriers, about CSX’s attempt to acquire a Massachusetts-based regional rail company. This week, CSX responded to concerns brought up by the village and library. 

  • “The majority of school districts in the capital area, they are not allowing indoor use by outside organizations; they’re not allowing indoor use during high or substantial transmission rates,” Voorheesville Superintendent Frank Macri said on Oct. 4.

  • For 2022, the town is proposing a tax rate of $1.55 per $1,000 of assessed value for all New Scotland property owners — including those who live in the village of Voorheesville — up from $1.52 per $1,000 of assessed value this year.

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.