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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, September 18, 2008

In Berne: Double-barreled productivity

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — Two long-standing issues were addressed at last week’s town board meeting: the relocation of the library, and Berne’s decade-old sewer project.

The board scheduled an informational meeting on a sewer-use ordinance for Wednesday, Sept. 24, at 7 p.m. at the town hall.

“Currently, we’re doing a couple things,” Supervisor Kevin Crosier said this week of the town’s work on the new library. As the library trustees hope to move to the senior center, he said, “We’re having some tests done for asbestos in the building.” Currently, the library is short on space in Town Hall in the hamlet.

The board also agreed to begin drawing up a draft agreement between the town and the seniors who use the old grange hall on Route 443. The idea, Crosier said, is “to try to firm up the relationship between them.”

The draft agreement, he said, will address questions on “the use of the building, how the seniors will use the building, what the town will do for the seniors, parking for the seniors, who pays for what — things like that.” All the utilities will be paid for, he said. “The town will work to construct a new portion off of the existing building for the seniors to use.”

Crosier emphasized, however, that the agreement is just a draft. “I’m going to try and put it together before the next town board meeting,” he said.

For years, officials have discussed moving the library. The town once discussed building a new library at the town park; the idea of moving the library next door to the Berne Masonic Lounge was also proposed.

More than $150,000 have been set aside for the project, including $50,000 from the sale of the fire station across the street from the town hall.

Crosier told The Enterprise in August that the project is “a collaborative effort between the town seniors and library.” He said that the cost of heating and maintenance for the seniors has become a heavy burden. If the town took over the senior center, put the library there, and constructed a new joint-use room that the seniors could also use, he said, “It would be a win-win for the town and the seniors. Then, they wouldn’t have to worry about paying the utilities or expenses for heat, so they could enjoy themselves and not have to worry about doing fundraisers to pay for heat. The library would love it because they would have a new, bigger home, and that would allow us to renovate a new town hall,” said Crosier.

The town has been working with the seniors for over a year. “The devil’s in the details,” he said. “It’s a great idea, just going to take some time to work out. I feel confident that the seniors and the town will be able to work together to get this together.”

Sewer project

In the late 1990s, the town began a sewer project that is still being carried out. “It started with a sanitation survey of the residents in the hamlet,” Crosier said this week.

There are houses in the hamlet over a century old, some with septic systems that were polluting the Fox Creek and local wells. Over a quarter-million dollars have been spent on the project to update the sewer system. The total is expected to be $2.5 million.

“Basically, that amount includes paying back the town’s general fund, because the town lent about $72,000 to get the preliminary engineering and testing done,” said Crosier.

That $72,000, he said, was paid back to the town’s general fund, and the rest of the quarter-million dollars has been for archeological studies, and the engineering of the sewer plant, distribution lines, laterals, and the main lines for the project.

“So there’s a lot of things included in that, but we’re pretty much done with those types of expenditures,” he said.

“The sewer-use ordinance is all about that sewer project,” Crosier said.

The Sept. 24 informational meeting will address the town’s updating of its sewer-use ordinance. “The ordinance oversees the sewer district; it’s kind of the rules of the road, the dos and the don’ts,” Crosier said. “For example, sump pumps won’t be allowed to be installed in the sewer system. There are certain criteria for how you hook up to the sewer system.”

The ordinance, he said, will apply to sewer district number-one, “and it’s only for those homes within that district,” said Crosier. “So, what we need to do is have the ordinance in place so the town has the legal authority to go and levy a proportional amount of taxes to each of those residents when the time comes,” he said.

“What we’re trying to do next is get this out to bid, and acquire easements from residents so that, when the bids come in, the town will be prepared to start building for the project,” said Crosier. “In today’s market, the town of Berne is lucky to have received the funding it’s received to complete this vital project.”

Since the need for the sewer project was realized, the town has received numerous grants, including $750,000 from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation, and $500,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Utility Service. It has also gotten money from the Department of Environmental Conservation and New York State Hudson River Valley Greenway.

“This is the most critical part of this entire process, and we’re trying to meet that target number of $2.5 million,” Crosier said of the total expenditures for the project. “Really, now, we’re at the end of the journey.”

Other business

In other business at this and last month’s meeting, the town board:

— Scheduled a comprehensive plan meeting for Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. at the town hall;

— Awarded a bid to Henderson Truck Equipment of $8,560 for a sander;

— Approved the purchase of a chip reader for the dog control officer, not to exceed $300. Many pet owners now implant chips in their animals, which can be scanned for their owner’s information in case the animal gets lost;

— Appointed Joel Willsey as library trustee;

— Approved an in-house repair for the highway department’s truck;

— Said that it is looking for an assistant code enforcement officer;

— Voted unanimously to purchase a 40-yard solid-waste container from United Service Corp. in Rochester for $8,235;

— Awarded seal coating work on the transfer station and town park pavilion to Hannans Paving and Sealing; and

— Agreed on the installation of an independent Internet line for the computers in the town hall. “They used to share a line with the library, but, for security purposes, they’re putting their own line in,” Crosier said.

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