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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 7, 2010

White out: Highway super is missing records

By Zach Simeone

RENSSELAERVILLE — Gary Zeh spent much of his first weekend as the town’s new highway superintendent plowing snow.

It would be good, he said, if he knew how much salt the town has or how much it had ordered. He doesn’t, though, because files from the highway department are missing.

Zeh, a Conservative who ran on the GOP line, ousted the long-time controversial highway superintendent, G. Jon Chase, in last November’s election. Chase’s wife, Joyce Chase, had helped with the record keeping.

All of the Chase files are missing from what is now, as of New Year’s Day, Zeh’s office.

“I’m not sure why they took them out of here,” said Zeh.

Chase left his post ahead of schedule, announcing his retirement in a Dec. 15 letter to the town. This prompted Jost Nickelsberg, the Republican supervisor who did not seek re-election, to change the locks at the highway department.

Nickelsberg said at his last meeting as supervisor, on Dec. 30, that, after learning Chase had left, he called the State Police, and Trooper Steve Nutting advised him, “If the people are no longer with you, you have to secure the area.”

“Who is going to foot the bill for changing of the locks? That was not authorized by this town board,” said Marie Dermody, the Democratic councilwoman who was elected to replace Nickelsberg as supervisor.

Nickelsberg said he authorized it and considered it an emergency situation.

He and Chase had had a contentious relationship throughout his four years as supervisor.

Dermody said this week she was unsure why the files were missing, and Nickelsberg and the Chases could not be reached for comment.

Town Clerk Kathleen Hallenbeck said that the files have been moved into Town Hall.

“When Jon retired, the records were locked up in the records room,” said Hallenbeck. “When this weather straightens up, [Zeh] is going to get what maintenance and whatever he needs.”

Zeh is not adversarial about the disruption in his new office. “If for some reason I don’t get the files back,” he said this week, “I’ll let the supervisor know and let the public know that, but I’m assuming I’ll probably get them back.”

But he also said of the missing files, “It hasn’t helped me, as far as knowing about how much salt we had, or how much salt we ordered; contract numbers; bid prices from the county and state. Maintenance records on the vehicles are gone, which would be nice to have and what work’s been done on the roads.”

Town Hall transition

The transition at Town Hall on New Year’s Day wasn’t as filled with surprises as that at the highway department but there were some bumps in the road.

The three Democrats on the town board along with a newly elected Conservative voted unanimously to appoint Dale Dorner — a Democratic newcomer to politics — to fill Dermody’s vacant town board seat.

The Conservative, Marion Cooke, was the sole dissenter in several other appointments made by the board at its re-organizational meeting.

In November’s four-way race for two town board seats, Cooke and Democratic Chairman John Kudlack came out on top, ousting Democratic incumbent Sherri Pine. Kudlack said this week that the Democrats considered several candidates before choosing Dorner. [See related story.]

At the New Year’s meeting, Dermody chose Assessor Jeffry Pine as her deputy supervisor. This week, she told The Enterprise why.

“I wanted someone who knew the history in town; I wanted someone who was readily available when I wasn’t; I wanted someone who I thought had reasonable judgment; and I wanted someone who wanted the position,” Dermody said this week. “I don’t anticipate that my deputy supervisor will be used to the extent that the previous deputy supervisor was used,” she said of Richard Tollner, whose term ended on Dec. 31. “I feel this is my job, and I want do it 100-percent. But, for the rare times that I am for some reason unavailable, I wanted someone I had ready access too.”

Pine was appointed by a 3-to-1 vote, with first-time Councilwoman Marion Cooke casting the dissenting vote.

“He already was an assessor,” Cooke said this week, “and I wasn’t sure if it was a conflict, so I felt it was safe to vote no.”

Pine’s wife, Sherri Pine, the councilwoman who lost her bid for re-election in November, was appointed to the town’s planning board, for a term to end Dec. 31, 2016.

“She wanted to continue serving the town in some capacity,” Dermody said of Pine this week. “When the zoning review committee was established, she offered to serve on that, but Bob Lansing took that spot with me, so she didn’t have that opportunity. This was an opportunity for her to serve in some capacity, and get some fresh blood on the board.”

Dermody was unsure about Sherri Pine’s experience with planning, but added, “I don’t think anyone who gets on that board as a novice has much background, but I think she’s willing to learn, and I think it’s worth giving her a chance at it.”

Again, Councilwoman Cooke was opposed.

“Randy Bates had been doing a good job on the planning board, and I felt it was not right to appoint Sherri Pine there,” said Cooke this week.

The planning board, she went on, sent a letter to the town board, requesting that Bates be re-appointed to his position on the board.

“I don’t even think they considered the planning-board recommendation,” Cooke said. “I was so taken by surprise by that one.”

She added later, “I don’t have anything against the people they appointed. I question the reasoning behind them.”

FEMA clerk

Additionally, the town board established the position of temporary FEMA clerk, for a term that will expire when all paperwork and filing associated with 2007 projects funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency is complete.

After Dermody’s motion for the establishment of the position, Councilwoman Cooke questioned the length of the term.

“What kind of time limit is that, do you expect?” Cooke asked.

“There are 11 folders and 17 projects,” Dermody said. “Several are started, but nothing has been brought to conclusion.”

Cooke asked if there was money in the budget for this position. Dermody referred to the FEMA-repayment budget line. Cooke asked if there was money in the FEMA-repayment line. Dermody nodded her head “yes.”

“I would like to have the board discuss this at a board meeting or at a work meeting and see if we can get an idea of a time frame,” Cooke said to Dermody.

“I would like it done within the next…few months,” Dermody replied.

“Could we say a 60-day time limit and see where we are?” Cooke asked.

“No,” replied Dermody. “I can’t put that kind of time limit. This has to get done, unless we want to give back all that money.”

Councilman Gary Chase pointed out that the town would be getting money back.

“We get 3 percent of all the FEMA monies back,” Chase said, and the town has spent “not even close” to that on these projects, he said.

“We need the expertise,” Dermody insisted. Cooke said she agreed with the rest of the board on the necessity of the position, but did not agree with the rest of the board’s neglecting to set a time frame.

Cooke said this week that she plans to encourage further discussion of the temporary FEMA clerk position at this Tuesday’s work meeting.

The board appointed Joyce Chase, wife of recently retired highway superintendent, Jon Chase, and mother of Councilman Gary Chase, to the position.

“It’s not a job that this town could have done without Joyce’s expertise,” Dermody reiterated this week.


The town’s elected and appointed officials and boards are as follows, with terms ending on Dec. 31, 2010 unless otherwise specified:

Town Board: Marie Dermody (supervisor, term ends Dec. 31, 2013), Gary Chase (Dec. 31, 2011), Marion Cooke (Dec. 31, 2013), John Kudlack (Dec. 31, 2013), Dale Dorner (Dec. 31, 2010);

Planning Board: Muriel Frasher (chairwoman, term expires Dec. 31, 2011), Dorothea Cotter (Dec. 31, 2015), Alfred Stettner (Dec. 31, 2014), Ray Welsh (Dec. 31, 2013), Sherri Pine (Dec. 31, 2016), Allyn Wright (Dec. 31, 2010), Richard Amedure (Dec. 31, 2012);

Zoning Board of Appeals: Alden Pierce (chairman, term expires Dec. 31, 2012), James Glorosio (Dec. 31, 2011), Walter Cook (Dec. 31, 2010), Brian Wood (Dec. 31, 2014), and Roger Gifford (Dec. 31, 2013);

Water and Sewer Committee: Michael Weber (term expires Dec. 31, 2013), Jack Long (Dec. 31, 2014), Tom Delp (Dec. 31, 2015), Douglas Story (Dec. 31, 2010), Dale Dorner (Dec. 31, 2011), and Richard Platel (Dec. 31, 2012);

Wind Study Committee: Noel Abbott (chairman), Alan Wilson, Melissa McGrath, and Peter Sedlmeir;

Town Clerk, Tax Collector, and Registrar of Vital Statistics: Kathleen Hallenbeck;

Deputy Town Clerk, Tax Collector, and Registrar of Vital Statistics: Dee Andrus;

Town Attorney: Joseph Catalano;

Deputy Town Attorney: John Kosich;

Town Veterinarian: Dr. Diane Biederman;

Civil Defense Coordinator: Brian Wood;

Civil Defense Officer: Gerald Wood;

Highway Superintendent: Gary Zeh;

Deputy Highway Superintendent: David Potter;

Assessors: Jeffry Pine, Donna Kropp, and Michael Weber;

Water and Sewage Treatment Officer: Del Shaver;

Deputy Water and Sewage Treatment Officer: Garrett Platel;

Constable: Richard Simons;

Bookkeeper: Andrea Cornwell;

Deputy Supervisor: Jeffry Pine;

Clerk to the Assessors: Rachel Chase;

Dog Control Officer: Cheryl Tefft-Baitsholts;

Recycling Officer: Jon Whitbeck:

Substitute Recycling Officers: Edward Pizzigati and Ronald Bates;

Town Historian: Irene Olson;

Secretary for Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals: Kathryn Wank;

Building Inspector and Zoning Enforcement Officer: Mark Overbaugh;

Clerk to Building Inspector and Zoning Enforcement Officer: Rachel Chase;

Court Clerks: Gail LaPlante and Lynette Terrell;

Records Inventory Clerk: Dee Andrus;

Senior Employee: Ronald Bates;

Newsletter Coordinator: Nancy Class;

Engineer to the Town: Francis Bossolini;

Senior Services Coordinators: Ann Vogel and Clara Potter;

Official Bank: The Bank of Greene County; and

Official Newspaper: The Greenville Press.

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