Concerns about nepotism raised and answered as board appoints code enforcer

Enterprise file photo — Marcello Iaia

Darci and Kevin Efaw pose for a picture with their dog at Altamont’s Christmas celebration. Kevin Efaw has been appointed to a part-time job as a code-enforcement officer for the town of Guilderland.

GUILDERLAND — Kevin Efaw was unanimously appointed by the Guilderland Town Board on Nov. 15 to the part-time post of provisional code-enforcement officer.

His wife, Darci Efaw, is the town’s comptroller.

Concerns about nepotism were raised by both Councilwoman Christine Napierski and resident Robyn Gray — a frequent commenter at town meetings who chairs the steering committee for the Guilderland Coalition of Responsible Growth.

Supervisor Peter Barber defended the appointment, saying that only one person who applied was qualified for the job, with certification as both a building inspector and fire inspector.

Barber also said the post had been open for two years, and that Efaw had worked for the town years ago and is currently an inspector for the city of Albany.

Darci and Kevin Efaw also run the Allied Brewing Company at Altamont Orchards.

Gray suggested the town should advertise in newspapers — and cited a cost of $45 for four weeks — to fill positions rather than just posting the vacancies online.

“You put it on where people are going to get it,” said Barber, calling newspaper job postings “an expense.”

Barber said the town follows state recommendations to post openings on social media or its website.

Gray also asked about hiring someone who could later get certified. Barber said that would entail a six-month wait.

“It just reeks of favoritism,” said Gray.

Barber said the town wouldn’t allow a police chief to hire his daughter as an officer but it would be fine if that police chief’s daughter ended up as parks director if she were the best qualified candidate.

“Just because somebody in one part of government is related to somebody in another part of government does not mean that the hiring is barred,” said Barber. “Our code is very clear.”

Before casting her vote with the other board members in favor of hiring Kevin Efaw, Napierski said, speaking in general terms, not about an individual, “Nepotism can be very detrimental to the workforce. It does demoralize the workforce when they see certain people getting hired or certain people being promoted; people feel that they can’t speak up.”

As Barber looked at papers in front of him, Napeirski went on, “We should start advertising these positions more somewhere, bring in more people who may be new to the town … I’d like to see that going forward.”

Napierski said she’d hesitated to bring up the matter because she didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings in the town. “I totally respect our current employees and appreciate working with them but, when we bring in people who are relatives of current employees who are higher up in the organization, it makes it hard for the underlings in the town to have a complaint about a person or raise an issue,” Napierski said.

Councilman Jacob Crawford suggested the town reach out to professional organizations to find applicants to fill vacant posts, to which Barber responded, “We do.”

Councilwoman Amanda Beedle, noting the code-enforcement job had been open for two years in a busy department, called it “a double-edged sword.” She asked: Do we now deny them the opportunity when they are fully qualified?

“We should have these discussions,” said Napierski.


Budget adopted

The town board unanimously adopted a $48 million budget for 2023, which reduces the tax levy by 5 percent from this year and is $234,000 under the state-set levy limit, according to Barber.

The board put off adopting the budget at its last meeting, Nov. 1, because the Albany County election mandate needed to be finalized.

State law sets Nov. 20 as the deadline for a town board to adopt a budget.

Barber said that Albany County had raised its chargeback to just over $75,000, up from $69,626 posted in an earlier draft of the town’s budget.

These funds are to cover Guilderland’s share of polling site fees, any travel mileage for employees, Election Day staff inspectors and custodians, fees for the storage of voting machines, “and something called a red bag pick-up,” said Barber.

Last year, the county’s board of elections originally wanted to charge Guilderland $86,000, Barber said. The town protested that fee and it was dropped to about $69,000, Barber said, so now, with an 8 percent increase, Guilderland is looking for details.

Crawford noted there was a $50-per-day increase in salaries paid to poll workers.

“Given a difficult economic environment coming, I think this is a good balanced budget and it will meet the needs and improve the quality of life of town residents,” said Barber of the 47,995,893.67 budget.



The board accepted an easement and right-of-way agreement offered by Barbara and Howard Brent that will let the public cross their property at 47 Campus Club Road to get to trails that are to be built at the former Hiawatha Golf Course, now being developed as Hamilton Parc.

Barbara Brent said she had grown concerned when she saw children on bicycles and people pushing baby carriages in ways that were unsafe. The Brents hardly use their yard, she said. “We’ve gotten our yard certified with National Wildlife — it’s naturalized,” she said.

“We’re going to carve out a piece of our property … so all our neighbors and everyone else will be able to use it,” said Howard Brent.

The board members thanked the Brents for their generosity with Barber saying it was beyond generous. “It’s unprecedented,” he said.


Conservation easement

No one spoke at a public hearing before the town board unanimously approved its first conservation easement — to reduce town taxes on 57 acres along the Normanskill at 434 Wormer Road.

“It’s recommended both by our new conservation easement board and by the town planner,” said Barber. “It will basically preserve 57 acres along the Normanskill that has already been recognized as being a bird sanctuary and again it’s perfectly consistent with the goals of the conservation-easement process … It would be hard to identify a more worthy parcel.”

In 2009, a section of the state’s Real Property Tax Law made the authorization for certain towns. In 2017, the neighboring town of Bethlehem set up such a program through Albany County legislation. Guilderland went through the state rather than the county.

Guilderland’s local law applies just to town tax breaks, not to county or school taxes; school taxes are the most significant. The school districts — Guilderland had five — and the county would have to be asked to provide the same tax relief. Ultimately, elected school board members would have to approve the school tax breaks.

Guilderland’s law has several lengths of time commitment; the longer the time commitment, the greater the tax break. A perpetual commitment nets a 90-percent tax break.


Other business

In other business at its Nov. 15 meeting, the Guilderland Town Board:

— Approved a new policy for the town’s Emergency Medical Services that sets out three levels for ambulances waiting at hospitals, each with a shorter waiting time based on availability of ambulance crews.

Barber and Napierski, both lawyers, worked with EMS leaders to make the policy, which the board had discussed at length on Nov. 1,  “compact and solid,” said Jay Tyler, director of Guilderland EMS.

“The next step really is to educate and train our EMS crews …,” said Tyler. “I will keep on attempting to contact and collaborate with the hospitals.”

“I think we have to put these entities on notice …,” said Barber;

— Put out a request for proposals for vendors to provide food and beverage services at the town’s Western Turnpike Golf Course.

Barber said it is “very difficult” to get service because the facility operates from April to October. “It’s a golf course with a restaurant; it’s not a restaurant with a golf course,” he said, adding, “There was a hope it might be a full-fledged restaurant but that is very difficult to do.”

He also said that town staff have been improving the facility;

— Designated Barber as Guilderland’s voting delegate for the annual meeting of the New York State Association of Towns;

— Approved a tax refund of $61.29 for two vacant lots, at 2800 and 2808 Coles Lane. James Melita, the town’s attorney, said the “keyhole lots” had been revalued “a little high” so the original listing of $100,000 has been reduced to $89,000.

“The vacant land happens to be next to the New York State Thruway,” said Barber;

— Approved spending $20,098.50 in funds under the American Rescue Plan Act to buy five portable radios and accessory equipment for the town’s Fire Prevention Department. The radios, Barber said, “will enable our investigators to communicate more directly with other investigators and have a more uniform system and greatly promotes the ability to respond at the scene.”

According to a memo from Ted J. Raymond, chief fire inspector, the five Motorola APX 4000 radios will replace worn and second-hand portable radios previously used by the Albany Police Department;

— Extended the due date for residents to pay their November water bills to 30 days from the date the bills are mailed.

Town Clerk Lynne Buchanan explained, “There was a glitch between the new software and the vendor that prints the bills. We still do not have a date when those bills will be mailed. The residents will have a penalty-free period to pay.”

Barber said the billing snafu mostly affects residents in the Westmere area; and

— Heard that letters of interest with résumés are being accepted for a vacancy on the town’s zoning board of appeals, which was created when Crawford left the post for the town board.

Crawford said the salary is “somewhere in the range of $5,000” but he hoped “people would do it for the service.”

The deadline for applying is Nov. 22.

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