New Scotland allocates half its ARPA funds, looks for bids on next phase of Hilton barn renovation

NEW SCOTLAND — The New Scotland Town Board had an expensive monthly meeting on Dec. 14

Board members on Wednesday OK’d approximately $324,000 for new playground equipment; about $23,000 to streamline the town’s general code; and put out to bid about $275,000 worth of work at the Hilton Barn.

While it wasn’t the largest allocation, the contract for code services kicked off a conversation about getting the public more involved in how the town should spend what’s left of its $660,000 in American Rescue Plan funds. 

The board authorized about $23,000 for the town to enter into a contract with General Code for general code codification, for which the town will receive a new website like the town of Guilderland or villages or Altamont and Voorheesville has for their codes. 

New Scotland’s laws, ordinances, regulations, and zoning currently reside on a single page on the town’s website in disparate PDFs, which stands for Portable Document Format. 

“It seemed like a good use of ARPA funds,” Supervisor Douglas LaGrange said. 

Councilwoman Bridgit Burke was on board with the codification but felt residents should have more to say with how the town’s federal dollars are spent. 

“I’m fully in support of this; I think that it’s very important that we be as transparent as possible to the public and for them to have easy access to the rules that have been established,” Burke said, going on to mention other towns that “allow the community to come in and make suggestions about how they thought the funds should be used. And I think that this is very worthy,” Burke said. “I would like to hear from the community as well.”

LaGrange said that some municipalities have held public hearings while others have long since spent the money, but “I’ve always considered the fact that we’re elected representatives of the public. And it’s our job to make these decisions.”

LaGrange said, “For something like this, and a couple of things we’re going to discuss,” over $320,000 for playground equipment and few thousand dollars for audio-visual equipment, “I think those are decisions that I personally feel good about making, already knowing that kind of the tenor out there and what people are looking for, in that instance.”

LaGrange also said, with half the town’s ARPA funding allocated, “we could certainly do a two-parter type thing” and ask for public input on how to spend the rest of the federal dollars. 

After more discussion, the board unanimously approved the ARPA funds for codification services with Burke doing so “because I do think that it’s a fundamental part of government.”

 

Playgrounds

The playground equipment at Swift Road and Feura Bush parks is at least 23 years old, Highway Superintendent Ken Guyer told board members, which is the length of time he’s worked for the town. 

The total cost for the equipment, split evenly between the two parks, was approximately $324,000. 

ARPA funds would be used to furnish the parks. But Councilman William Hennessy said he was reluctant to approve such a large amount of money with Wednesday being the first time that he’d heard the request and because of prior experiences.

“I’m 100 percent supportive of replacing that equipment but only if ... we get a [town-designated engineer] involved because, you know, I’ve said this before, it started with the Swift Road pump station,” Hennessy said. “When we went, just  [to] replace something without really looking at it.” 

LaGrange said Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy had also “offered up a grant towards this of $125,000.”

Hennessy said, “I’m just not comfortable authorizing $323,000 in one meeting for this, without a little bit more scrutiny. And it may end up costing us more, but, you know, it may be a little bit more safe than sorry.”

Burke asked Hennessy if could be specific about what else he felt the board needed to do. 

“This is the first time we’ve seen it? This is the first time, well, first time I've seen it. It wasn’t on any agenda prior. I am supportive of this whole thing. But, you know, I don’t know if it’s the best use of the ARPA funds anyways,” he responded. “And I’m the biggest proponent on this board of our parks and recreation — I’m the liaison for the darn thing. So I just think we need a little bit more scrutiny to authorize $324,000. I don’t know how everyone else feels.”

The rest of the board was OK moving forward with the purchase. 

When it came to the vote, Hennessy was able to get a condition placed into the motion that the town appoint an engineer for the project. 

 

Hilton Barn

The board on Wednesday also authorized bids from contractors for $275,000 in projects on one of the town’s signature projects. The century-old enormous barn was saved from demolition by moving it across Route 85A to what is now a park.

The latest upgrades to the Hilton Barn will include new and refinished siding, concrete floors, interior bathrooms, and all the related plumbing and electrical work.

The work is the latest for the $1-plus million project, much of which is being paid for with state grants. 

A new half-million-dollar slate roof was recently installed, while there have also been recent connections made to the Albany County Rail Trail. 

More New Scotland News

  • David Ague was arrested by the Albany County Sheriff’s Office for unlawful surveillance after a staff member at Voorheesville Elementary School discovered a cellphone on April 9 that Ague allegedly planted in a staff bathroom in order to record people. 

  • The village property tax rate is set to increase 2.25 percent next year, from about $1.32 per $1,000 of assessed value this year to approximately $1.36 per $1,000 next year. The entire village has an assessed value of about $264.5 million, of which about 92 percent is taxable, and is up from $262.5 million.

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.