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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 4, 2010

Chase had records moved
Super Zeh fires up waste-oil furnace plan

By Zach Simeone

RENSSELAERVILLE — The dust has settled since the long-time Democratic highway superintendent was ousted by newcomer Gary Zeh.

The highway department files are still in the town’s records room, but Zeh has had no problem accessing them for his work. The records had disappeared from the highway superintendent’s office before Zeh took over on Jan. 1.

“I got my maintenance records back, but I have to go through the rest of the files,” Zeh said this week. “I haven’t had any resistance, but nobody can tell me why they were taken out of here.”

Zeh is now working on a plan with Jon Whitbeck, the town’s recycling officer, for using the waste-oil furnace at Town Hall, he said at the January town board meeting. He said this week that it should be in place by the end of February. Using the waste-oil furnace had been a long-standing goal of the last administration.

Zeh spent much of his first weekend as the new highway superintendent in January plowing snow, but he was unsure of how much salt the town had or how much it had ordered because files from his predecessor’s office were moved up to the records room at Town Hall.

G. Jon Chase, the previous superintendent who was at the center of several town controversies, left his post ahead of schedule, announcing his retirement in a Dec. 15 letter to the town. This prompted then-Supervisor Jost Nickelsberg, a Republican 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.”

But Nickelsberg said later that he had nothing to do with the removal of Chase’s files from the office.

Town Clerk Kathleen Hallenbeck explained the situation this week.

“The superintendent retired,” she said of Chase, “and he just had his records moved up here into the records room, I guess because there wasn’t going to be a superintendent in there till January. I don’t really know the reason for moving them up here, but that’s the only logical thing I can think. [Chase] had the highway guys put them on rolled carts and bring them up here.”

Chase was unavailable for comment.

Recycled heat

The town’s waste oil furnace, if put to use, will cut down on the need to purchase heating oil for Town Hall. According to Zeh, the problem with the waste-oil furnace is that the town never had a proper system for acquiring the waste oil.

“They were collecting waste oil from residents, but it wasn’t done in a way that was controlled enough,” Zeh said of the town. “Before, the residents used to drop off oil at the transfer station behind the highway department, and Jon [Whitbeck] had trouble controlling everything that was going on over there, and it got to be a problem — people dropping off oil when he wasn’t looking, oil that wasn’t suitable for the furnace, or other liquids that weren’t waste oil.”

The solution: Edward Pizzigati, one of the town’s substitute recycling officers, will collect waste oil at the transfer station one Saturday per month, though which Saturday has not yet been decided.

“He’ll handle the oil, and pour it into the waste oil tanks, and check the oil before it’s poured in,” Zeh said of Pizzigati. “And we’re going to limit the amount of oil people can drop off so it doesn’t get out of hand.”

Other business

In other business at its Jan. 14 meeting, the town board:

— Approved a payment of $7,175 to Main-Care Energy for replacing the furnace at Town Hall;

— Heard from Councilwoman Marion Cooke that, being an employee of G & H Lumber, she will decline to sign any town voucher associated with the company;

— Heard from Supervisor Dermody that every voucher will be logged on her computer and checked against the current budget, to add another layer to the town’s bookkeeping system;

— After discussing that the main computer server at Town Hall had crashed, voted unanimously to purchase a new Dell server. Rather than buying an exact copy of the old server for close to $1,900, the board opted to purchase a $2,370 server with expansion capabilities, a redundant power supply, and RAID [Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks] configuration, which means less chance of data loss by having several smaller disks working together instead of one large one;

— Heard from Dermody that she will contact Senator Neil Breslin and request aid to pay for the new server;

— After a request from Dermody, voted unanimously to set this year’s town board goal: Assembling a fireproof records room;

— Voted unanimously to put out a request for proposal for information technology services, including maintenance, repair, and support;

— Heard from Highway Superintendent Zeh that residents can call 5-1-1 for traffic and road conditions;

— Heard from Assessor Donna Kropp that exemption renewals must be turned in by March 1;

— Agreed to put out an RFP for an audit of the town government, and spoke of beginning discussions with Bookkeeper Andrea Cornwell on whether a forensic audit is necessary. [For more coverage on town board discussions of the need for a forensic audits, and clarification of what a forensic audit is, go to www.altamontenterprise.com, and look under archives for Nov. 19, 2009];

— Re-appointed Bradley Chase to the board of assessment review;

— Appointed James Walker to the board of assessment review, to replace Michael Weber, who was elected assessor in November; and

— Appointed Councilman John Kudlack to the zoning review committee, to replace Robert Lansing, whose term on the town board ended at the close of 2009.

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