Residents call for earlier Knox agendas

KNOX — Two residents asked during the January town board meeting that the schedule of business for the council be made available earlier, so that people could anticipate whether or when they might address the town board.

 “If there’s something that interests you or affects you, your land, or affects your taxes, and you knew ahead of time, you could make arrangements,” Vasiolios Lefkaditis said this week. Lefkaditis, a manager of Shaw Funding and a resident, said he asked whether the board had any policies or procedures for posting the topics to be discussed.

Lefkaditis, who serves as a Berne-Knox-Westerlo school board member, has had business before Knox boards last year as he acquired property in the hamlet where a business district is being considered.

The outline of a town board meeting in Knox is not set out in an agenda, as it’s typically called, but rather as a schedule of business made by longtime Supervisor Michael Hammond. He said this week that the document is available with the town clerk at least the day before a meeting and noted copies had been available in the meeting room on Jan. 7.

“I’m going to try to move that up as much as I possibly can. I just don’t want to do that at the expense of the some of the information being left off that list,” said Hammond this week. He said much of what appears on the schedule often happens close to the date of the meeting, like correspondence that he received the day of the January meeting.

Going forward, Hammond said he would have copies of his schedule available during meetings. Of why he doesn’t use the term “agenda,” Hammond said one person doesn’t set the agenda — the council would have to vote on one.

“…There is nothing in the Open Meetings Law or any other law of which I am aware that deals specifically with agendas,” Robert Freeman, director of the state’s Committee on Open Government, wrote in a 1997 advisory opinion. “While many public bodies prepare agendas, the Open Meetings Law does not require that they do so. Similarly, the Open Meetings Law does not require that a prepared agenda be followed.”

The time and place of a scheduled meeting must be posted before a meeting, according to the law.

The law does require a public body to make available, prior to or at the meeting, records or documents scheduled to be discussed. It also requires an agency with a website and high-speed Internet to post those records online before the meeting. Both provisions are to be made “to the extent practicable as determined by the agency…” and do not require money to be spent.

Repeating a criticism she made in November after she ran for the supervisor’s post, Pamela Fenoff said she told the town board it would be “common courtesy” to post the schedule the week before a meeting. Fenoff is the town’s planning board secretary.

“All the people living in this business district, if they don’t know it’s being discussed that particular night, their input isn’t being heard,” Lefkaditis said on Wednesday.

Other business

In other business, with unanimous votes at its January meeting, the town board:

— Confirmed the date for the Knox Winter Festival as Jan. 25, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.;

— Authorized the transfer of $1,000 from the playgrounds and recreation center’s contractual line to the Knox Lighting District;

— Authorize the supervisor to renew a $25,000 contract with Helderberg Ambulance Inc. for 2014;

— Authorized the supervisor to renew a $25,402 contract with the Altamont Rescue Squad for 2014;

— Authorized the payment of $7,000 to the Altamont library and $3,100 to the Berne library for 2014;

— Authorized the supervisor to transfer $55,000 from the highway fund to the highway capital reserve fund;

— Transferred $80,000 from unallocated general fund to principal on bond;

— Approved the town’s procurement and purchasing policy, Hammond said this week, with a threshold for competitive bidding of $10,000 for purchasing goods or $20,000 if the contract includes labor. The state-set thresholds are $20,000 and $35,000, respectively;

— Heard from Hammond that the United States Postal Service has requested a drawing for the location of boxes outside of Town Hall. Post Office box customers in Knox have been using a bank of boxes in the East Berne Post Office after the Knox location closed in 2012; and

— Entered into executive session to discuss employee history.

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