The Nelson Town Board last week discussed how to improve the quality of its planning board and zoning board of appeals alternates by ensuring that candidates for the positions understand the requirements, education and dedication necessary to do the job.
The issue was broached by Councilor John Laubscher, the board liaison to the planning board and ZBA, who said that the alternates approved by the town board since the practice of having alternates was created in April 2013 have not seemed to understand their responsibilities nor have they attended the required training classes.
The board approved the emendation to the local law in 2013 to allow for alternate members to be added to both the planning board and ZBA as a way to ensure a full complement of each board when in session if a member was absent or had a conflict of interest. The alternates, similar to alternates on a jury, would attend every board meeting and be subject to the same training and rules, but not vote unless needed.
Appointments as a board alternate are temporary, one-year appointments. Each board can have two alternates.
Launscher said the alternates during the past 16 months have not attended the state-mandated training courses, nor have they attended every meeting of their respective boards. They also do not seem to have understood exactly how and when they are expected to vote on issues before their respective boards.
“This is not a casual job,” Town Supervisor Roger Bradstreet said.
Councilor John LaGorga agreed, saying “It is expected that they will be regular members of the boards.”
Laubscher explained the appointment requirements: That every alternate must attend the same training courses that regular planning board and ZBA members attend; they must attend every meeting of their respective board so they understand the topics and issues before the body; and they only vote when regular board members are absent or have conflicts of interest and therefore there is no board quorum.
Laubscher recommended the town create an information packet to be given to all alternate candidates so they will understand exactly the requirements expected of them. The rest of the board agreed.
Town Clerk Debbie Costello said all four alternate positions — two for each board — currently are vacant, and she has been contacted by a number of interested candidates.
Also at the meeting, the board:
—Heard from Race Director Richard Benner that the annual Mad Cow 5K “went quite well.” The event had 187 registered runners, which was slightly less than in 2013, and will raise as much money for local charities this year as it did last year.
—Received a petition signed by more than 100 Erieville residents to support improved cell phone service in the area by allowing a new cell tower to be attached to the fire tower erected last year.
—Unanimously approved a lease agreement to allow the county board of elections to use the town hall for a polling place in the upcoming November elections.
—Discussed the possibility of switching its energy carrier from Niagara Mohawk to Quick Energy, the latter of which offered to save the town $1,944 by going to a fixed rate. The estimated savings would be 4 cents per kilowatt hour cheaper than what the town currently pays. All board members were in favor of investigating the possibility of making the change. No votes or decisions were made during the meeting.
—Discussed the upcoming budget process and the need to discuss passing a local law to allow the town to exceed the state mandated tax levy cap, which it did last year. The board agreed to discuss the issue further at its September meeting and schedule a public hearing for the proposed local law at its October meeting.
—Announced that all the fire hydrants in the Erieville Water District will be flushed during the second weekend in September. Erieville Fire Department officials will accompany water district officials during the flushing to measure hydrant pressure. The flushing will be done at night when water usage is at its lowest levels.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.