Sheriff’s contribution makes EMS affordable for Westerlo

WESTERLO — With Westerlo’s volunteer rescue squad slated to close in three months, at the end of the year, the town board is continuing to iron out a plan for Albany County to fill the gap.

Acting Supervisor William Bichteman updated the town board on Sept. 17 on negotiations with the Albany County Emergency Medical Services.

Two weeks before, Bichteman had told the board that he was “flabbergasted” by the “EMS costs without our own ambulance”; he anticipated a hike of 20 to 25 percent in costs for the town as the county EMS is moving to more full-time staff.

“The sheriff magnanimously put $150,000 into the EMS budget as income,” said Bichteman, adding he didn't know where the money came from. “We’re $20,000 less than what we paid last year,” he said.

Bichteman said that Debbie and Ken Mackey, mainstays of the volunteer squad, had been part of the talks “to make sure services will be maintained.” In August, they had announced through tears that there weren’t enough volunteers to carry on.

Bichteman told the board on Sept. 17, “The ambulance will be here.” The ultimate goal, he said, is the county will become the sole provider so it is “off our budget entirely.”

While, Bichteman said, “a lot of things are in the air,” he also said, “The sheriff’s department had been bending over backwards to make sure in-town people can at times manage the station here.” They would not be paid, he said, adding, “We may entice more volunteers.”


Other business

In other business, the board:

— Decided to continue a public hearing on a solid-waste law to Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. to give board members time to review changes. Bichteman conveyed apologies for the delay from the town attorney, Javid Afzali, who was in Israel last week, he said.

The board also passed a motion to refer the bill to the Albany County Planning Board, to neighboring towns, and to Greene County;

— Heard that, after the board’s approval two weeks before, Bichteman had invested 30 percent of the town’s fund balance, about $327,000, into the New York Cooperative Liquid Assets Securities System, a short-term, liquid investment fund for public entities known as NYCLASS.

“Today we’ve earned $94 in interest,” Bichteman said;

— Heard Bichteman read a list of about a dozen names of town workers who have not yet taken the new state-required training to combat workplace sexual harassment. A training session with Debbie Mackey was scheduled for Oct. 2 at 4:30 p.m. at the town hall. The deadline for completing training is Oct. 9;

— Discussed speed limits for Annabelle and Slade Hill roads, which have none marked, and for requesting a reduction in the speed limit for a section of Route 411 in Dormansville. “The state sets the speed limit,” said Bichteman.

The board tabled the matter so that members could drive the roads;

— Agreed to submit a water infrastructure improvement grant application;

— Passed a motion to allow the building inspector to renew building permits for the same fee as a new building permit;

— Scheduled a special town board meeting for Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. to present the tentative town budget;

— Heard a report from the town historian, Dennis Fancher, on utilities in Westerlo years ago. The postal service, for instance, was fined in 1923, he said, for failure to deliver mail due to the snow banks. Also, Fancher said, in 1916, nine separate telephone companies served Westerlo;

— Heard from Mary-Jane Araldi about the planned Wreaths Across America ceremony to be held at the Westerlo Rural Cemetery on Saturday, Dec. 14.

Araldi told The Enterprise that her husband was retired from serving in the Air Force and that her father, a World War II veteran, had landed at Normandy. “It’s to honor our veterans,” she said of the Wreaths Across America program. “I think it’s a very worthy cause.”

Ceremonies coordinated by the not-for-profit Wreaths Across America will take place at over 1,200 locations. Each wreath costs $15 and checks may be made out to the Westerlo Heritage Museum and mailed to Post Office Box 148, Westerlo, NY  12193.

Westerlo Rural Cemetery has at least 105 veterans, Araldi said, and she’d like to honor the veterans buried in the town’s other two active cemeteries in future years.

Scouts will serve as a color guard, she said, adding, “We need volunteers to lay the wreaths”;

— Rejected a proposal by Dorothy Verch, who chairs the town’s planning board, to buy three signs for $575 each to publicize board meetings. Councilman Joseph Boone suggested a more permanent sign at the transfer station.

Bichteman agreed, suggesting talented highway workers could construct it.

“There’s also something to be said about civic responsibility,” Bichteman said, adding that citizens don’t often react “until something steps on their toes; then they’re up in arms”;

— Heard an invitation from resident Dianne Sefcik to participate in a conversation at the Rensselaerville Library on Sept. 21, as a follow-up to the July “American Creed” program held at the Carey Institute. The topic is “The Community We Want To Be”; and

— Heard from a Westerlo resident who lives in the Greenville school district and pays taxes to the Greenville library; he wondered why he wasn’t taxed for Westerlo’s library.

“It has to do with the way the library was chartered … , said Bictheman. “There’s nothing we can do.”

“Association Libraries” have trustees who serve as volunteers and have no power to levy taxes; they receive funding by asking the municipalities they serve for money as well as through grants and fundraising. 

“School District Public Libraries” have elected boards of trustees that have the power to levy taxes. Their funding comes from a property-tax lexy with a budget that has to be approved each May by the residents of the school district.

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