Aug 28, 2009 Doug Campbell Uncategorized
Lebanon town board members authorized a public hearing to consider a local law granting a Cold War Veterans Property Tax Exemption, agreed to hold an informational meeting with the public and Nornew Inc. on a proposed 8 mile high pressure 16 inch steel natural gas pipeline in the township before the Public Service Commission scheduled for a fall construction date and authorized an energy audit for the town buildings at the monthly town board meeting held Aug. 10.
The public hearing to consider the Cold War Veterans Exemption will be held on Monday Sept. 14 at 8 p.m. at the Town Office, 1210 Bradley Brook Road in the hamlet. The local law is on file with the Town Clerk’s office and can be viewed prior to the hearing, and copies will be available at the hearing. The proposed local law is supposed to have a very minor impact on the town tax levy, according to Town Assessor David Gray.
The town will seek to adopt a law similar to one adopted by Madison County last year that was authorized by the state Legislature in 2008.
Town officials also agreed to schedule a public information meeting for residents to ask questions and hear specifics on a proposed 8-mile high pressure 16-inch steel pipeline proposed for the township and a segment of the Town of Eaton by Nornew Inc. that is presently before the state Public Service Commission. The proposed pipeline would include road bores involving town and county roads including portions of South Lebanon Road, Deep Springs Road, Bastain Road, Lebanon Center Road, Lebanon Road, Reservoir Road, Soule Road, Lebanon Hill Road and private lands leased by the company from property owners.
Highway Superintendent Alex Hodge reported that Nornew Inc. would be working with Vestal Asphalt to repair over $200,000 worth of gas development related road impacts from last winter/spring/summer on town roads including Bastain, Lebanon Center Road, Soule Road, Lebanon Hill Road, Reynolds Hill Road and Chamberlain Road. Mr. Hodge said he would be there overseeing the work and ensuring it met town specifications. The agreement was the result of the ongoing contract the town and Nornew have about road impacts due to gas well development and drilling.
The information hearing on the proposed pipeline will occur after the public hearing on the Cold War Veterans Exemption is concluded. Town officials may consider an application for road bore requests by Nornew at that time, dependent on the status of the company’s application and questions that may come up for the town before the PSC.
In other town board action on August 10, town officials also amended the town’s annual road plan to include additional repairs to portions of Lebanon Hill Road that would require headwall installation and roadwork due to extensive flooding resulting from heavy rainfall this summer. Cost overruns of approximately $2,000 have been experienced due to some washouts due to intermittent heavy rainfall and flodding, and the rising price of road oil and materials during the construction season.
Town officials authorized Supervisor Jim Goldstein to spend $100 to apply for an energy audit through the New York State Energy Resource and Development Authority to explore potential energy efficiencies and grant opportunities, and also authorized the Supervisor to puruse federal, state and other grant funding that might be available to offset local costs of any proposed solar energy system or othe energy efficiencies and cost saving improvements. The $100 can be recouped through NYSERDA if the town implements any of the proposed improvements.
Town officials are already identifying a need for upgrading and repairing the town’s oil fired water baseboard heating system that could cost $3,100 this year and are looking for grant opportunities that help defray costs of energy improvements and equipment upgrades, and possibly obtaining local funds to consider the installation of a solar energy system at no local cost, which has the potential to save the town $135,000 over the life of the system in electric costs and cover all town electric use.
The Town Board voted 3-1, with Council Steven Wilcox opposed, citing his objections to apply for or seeking any stimulus funds that may add to the federal deficit. Council Marie Morgan was absent due to illness
In other action, town board members:
— Authorized the creation of an Ad-Hoc Committee to work with the Amish Community. Town officials appointed Charles Hall of Reservoir Road as Chair, John “Jack” King of Craine Lake Road and Paul Sheldon of South Lebanon Road to serve on this committee to work with a similar group of three appointed by the Amish community to resolve disputes and improve communication between town officials and Amish residents on town laws and code requirements. Mr. Hall grew up in Chautuauqa County with many Amish neighbors, Mr. King has worked with Amish farmers through Dairylea and Paul Sheldon has been active in working with local Amish in the greater Lebanon/Georgetown area. The committee was directed to begin discussion with their Amish counterparts and report back to the town board with recommendations.
— Approved a contract with the Board of Elections for use of the Town Office for Election District No. 1 in the township for the Sept. 15 Republican primary.
— Approved Assessor Compensation schedule for the revaluation of town properties in 2009 that is complete with the state Board of Equalization and Assessment reporting the town and the other town CAP members, Eaton and Georgetown, are now at 100 percent of market value assessment. The total cost of revaluation of 1,123 parcels was calculated at $7 a parcel by Mr. Gray and he has agreed to be paid the $7,861 monthly over the next year.
– Discussed the 2010 town budget. Supervisor Goldstein indicated that there are already anticipated revenue losses (interest income from reserves, sales tax portion, state retirement increases) equaling 4 percent of the tax levy but his goal is to try to present a flat tax levy budget to the Town Board in October for consideration while trying to maintain services at current levels for highways. Town officials discussed using reserves to keep down any tax increase in 2010.
— Highway Superintendent Alex Hodge reported on repair problems with the town mowing machine, the possibility that it may need to be replaced in the near future, and anticipated replacement in 2010/future repairs of the Town loader which has been in service in 2001. He also reported that the 2002 Stadium International Truck may require a new box due to rust despite regular maintenance, citing that many trucks on state bid are now being built with foreign steel and do not hold up as well. Town officials discussed the best way to address potential replacement and repair costs realted to these items which included utilizing highway equipment reserves if necessary. The option to maintain the loader for another year rather than replace it given the number of hours on it vs. getting a new loader and trading in the current one were debated.
During the public comment period of the meeting, Bernard Palmer of Bisbee Road raised complaints about the mowing of town roads and the town highway department. Highway Supt. Hodge explained the mower was down awaiting parts and that as soon as parts could be located and the mower repaired, it would be back out mowing.
Susan Galbraeth of South Lebanon Road and Steve Bartlett of South Lebanon Road raised the question as to whether the Town Board was aware of a personal injury lawsuit involving the Town Code Enforcement Officer in another locale. Town officials said they were not. Ms. Galbraeth questioned whether or not the town thought that this presented a problem, stating that she thought the Amish residents of the township would not be comfortable with having Code Enforcement Officer Jamie Foster on their property out of fear of being sued given they do not carry insurance and wondered what town officials planned to do. Mr. Bartlett questioned whether the town had run adequate background checks on the Code Enforcement Officer.
Supervisor Goldstein said that all town officials are covered by liabiltiy insurance, that he is not aware of one incident in his tenure where a town official sued a property owner over an injury incident, that the Codes Enforcement Officer cannot be on any property owner’s land without their permission and that he did not understand the connection between the CEO who might be involved in a private injury lawsuit in another place unrelated to his CEO duties and how that would impact his role here. Supervisor Goldstein said he would check with Town Attorney Steven Jones and take direction from him if there were any concerns or recommendations from the Town Attorney.
Town officials and Supervisor Goldstein affirmed that Mr. Foster’s references were checked at the time of his appointment last January and that the Vernon Town Supervisor gave a favorable reference, but that town officials cannot disclose specifics of those discussion as a matter of town personnel privacy.
Council Wilcox reaffirmed his desire for the Town Board to consider term limits but said he has expanded his proposal to include town board members as well as the Supervisor after thinking the issue over from the previous meeting. He read from an e-mail he sent to town officials in which he cited the decision by Congress to amend the constitution to limit a president to two terms as an example. He said he wanted the Town Supervisor to include this item in his Supervisor Survey and then see what the results show from the public.
Public discussion ensued on this issue with Mr. Bartlett arguing in favor of term limits for town officials, Diane and Jim McDowell of Bradley Brook Road arguing against it, Gary Will of River Road provided his own list questioning the pros and cons of such a proposal and challenging each town board member to come up with their own list for the next town board meeting.
Supervisor Goldstein said his position on the issue was that it should be decided by the public through voter referendum and since state law prohibits a mandatory referendum, he recommended the town board have an advisory referendum from town voters during an election to take public opinion on the issue, before taking any action.
Currently, state law allows the Town board to set term limits by local law after a public hearing on the issue but does not permit a voter referendum on the issue.
Supervisor Goldstein kicked off the Supervisor Survey at the Lebanon Historical Society A-Fair on August 15 and surveys are available by e-mail or at the Town Office for property owners and voters to complete. He will share the results of that survey at the October town board meeting and encourages all interested residents to complete the survey, which he shared with town officials on Aug. 10.
The survey includes questions about gas development issues and fuel production tax, town budget questions, term limits, a town solar energy system and possible changes in the town Land Management Local Law.