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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, June 19, 2008

New chapter for old grange hall?
Senior Center may serve as library

By Tyler Schuling

BERNE — The town and the Hilltown Seniors are considering making the senior center on Route 443 a community center that would be home to the Berne library. 

“As a taxpayer, I can’t support anything that’s just for one group,” said Carl Walls, president of the Hilltown Senior Citizens.  The group has over 100 members and meets monthly at the center, which was once a grange hall.  Each year, the seniors hold a tag sale, which raises over $1,000. 

Last week, officials, seniors, and Walls discussed parking, the needs of the seniors, relocating the Berne library, and adding a community room to the center.

The Berne library is currently located in close quarters at Town Hall on Helderberg Trail at the center of the hamlet.  Over the past several years, officials have discussed building a new library at the town park; they also discussed relocating next door to the Berne Masonic Lodge.  The town has earmarked over $150,000 for the project, including $50,000 from the sale of the fire station across the street from Town Hall. 

“One of the burdens that we’d be able to help with by sharing the building, or by taking over the building,” said Berne Supervisor Kevin Crosier, “is that the seniors would have a building that they could go to that was maintained by the town, and that money — that five or six or seven thousand dollars a year that you have to spend on heating oil — could now be used for your trips or whatever.”

He called a partnership “a good fit.” 

“There would be a big benefit,” said Crosier.  “Not only the cost of the heat and the lights but the maintenance of the parking lot, the plowing in the winter, all that stuff would…all be taken care of by the town.”

Seniors said their concerns are that they continue to meet at the hall the second Saturday of each month and that they have a meeting space large enough to accommodate them.  They were also concerned about having room for their annual tag sale in July and enough room for parking. 

Crosier said he could write a letter to the seniors about what had been talked about so that negotiations could keep moving forward.

“It’s going to be one small step at a time until we get it all together,” he said.

Helen Lounsbury, a library trustee, said, “I want to be sure that I’m understanding what’s being said here.  The town is committing to use this as a site for the library if the legal issues can be worked out.”

Her brother, Councilman Joseph Golden, said, “No, we’re committing to begin negotiations for that purpose.” 

Lounsbury said the library trustees have discussed the agreement extensively and feel it is viable. 

The Berne Town Board passed a resolution to explore the feasibility of using the building for a community center, which would allow for continued use for the library and the seniors.

“Do you have a timeline on this, when you’ll be getting back to the library trustees and the seniors?” Lounsbury asked.

The board did not.  Crosier said it will discuss the matter further at its working meeting in two weeks.  Golden said it’s hard to time and that the town needs to inspect the building.

“Government moves slow, but it moves slow for a very good reason,” said Crosier.  “So that we don’t miss anything.”

Shared services

Joe Welsh, a Berne highway worker, told the board about what he’d learned earlier this month at an annual training session for highway superintendents sponsored by the state and the state’s Association of Towns at Ithaca College.

“It was pretty informative,” he said.  “A lot of stuff there.” 

Welsh said he didn’t know that Consolidated Highway Improvement Program money could be used for more than just road projects. 

“You could use it for purchasing a truck, a pickup truck, right on up to a paver,” he said. 

“They touched base a lot on shared services,” said Welsh.  In the western part of the state, he said, almost all towns share services, and counties and the state normally don’t plow roads but subcontract the work out to smaller towns. 

Welsh said he’d like to see Berne “town heads” and “the heads of other towns” try shared services, starting with health insurance. 

“I think you could save some money if you can get everybody together on that,” he said. 

Councilman James Hamilton said the town is looking at sharing health insurance with Albany County.

Other business

In other business, the Berne Town Board:

— Heard from Patricia Favreau, the town’s clerk, that the town’s application for a $25,000 municipal farmland protection grant is under review and will be processed as soon as possible.  Berne will soon be reviewing and updating its comprehensive plan and is looking for volunteers in the community.  The town board appointed residents Gerald Large and Paul Baitsholts to the comprehensive plan review committee. 

“Has anybody approached John Crosier?” asked Lounsbury.  John Crosier is the supervisor’s father; for years, he chaired Berne’s planning board.  “He certainly is knowledgeable and has a long, historical viewpoint which could have value here.”

Supervisor Crosier said he would ask him. 

“We need a business person.  That’s what we’re lacking,” he said;

— Heard from Favreau that Crosier will be awarded the Community Caregivers’ public service award, which he will accept at the annual gala on Friday, Nov. 7, at the Albany Country Club.  “He will be recognized for the wonderful contributions that have helped to build a caring community,” they wrote;

— Awarded a bid to Diamond Data Surveillance Camera for an amount not to exceed $2,656 to place two surveillance cameras at the town park.  Officials have recently discussed acts of vandalism there.  Welsh said every picnic table is broken; and

Heard from Crosier that Tim Bauldof, the owner of Advanced Car Wash Systems in Voorheesville, donated $400 worth of car washes for the town’s new senior van.  The town recently bought a 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan, which is being used to take seniors to their appointments and on errands.

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