Wednesday, January 27, 2010
The regular Town Board meeting will resume at 7:00 p.m. and include 3 Public Hearings.
Agenda is now online!
Sunday, January 24, 2010
In answer to this article, we couldn't agree more with what Strikeslip wrote in his blog, Overpaid in New Hartford..., but we will also add a couple of thoughts of our own.
In the Observer Dispatch article:
Union president Paul Colburn said he believes his officers deserve the salaries they get, and he’s negotiating for a raise.Is that a fact? How arrogant!
And don't you just love this one...
“Our job hasn’t changed because of what happened with the town’s money,” he [Colburn] said. “We are still out there 24 hours a day.”Sir, the town's money is what pays your salary or are you buying into Chief Philo's pipe dream that sales tax revenue pays for the "wants and needs " of the police department?
Colburn also said:
...the level of activity in his department should be taken into consideration in determining salaries.How about the level of activity in your department needs to be drastically curtailed if it requires overtime pay to the tune of $20,000 to $25,000 for most officers, thereby boosting retirement benefits, and particularly in light of the fact that the New Hartford town police department is clearly not underpaid to begin with?
Also mentioned in the article:
Statewide organizations that represent police officers said many disparities exist in police pay.Hmmm...
“There is absolutely no correlation between salaries, the size of an agency, how much crime they have and how complex the job is,” said John Grebert, executive director of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police. “It really comes down to the municipality’s ability to pay and the salary of the largest bargaining unit.”
New Hartford's ability to pay....That makes it easy!
Perhaps it's time to follow in the footsteps of the Town of Clay...
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Apparently, town officials are 'on board' with the need to fix the problem, but they are exploring other means of paying for the fixes without burdening taxpayers with a charge on their water bill..at least for the short-term.
According to the article:
“I'm for this project,” new Town Supervisor Patrick Tyksinski said. “To say all we want is pure water going into the Mohawk is a great thing. We just don't have enough information.”It's troubling that supposedly the other eight (8) municipalities have already signed on to the $1.05 per 1,000 gallons of water charge even though no one seems to have a clear idea as to where and how the money will be spent. There are no agreements...no ending date for the collection of these fees on our water bill [a fee that may very well increase as time goes on]...no plan as to what fixes and where the fixes will be done. They will just be collecting money now and deciding later how to spend it. [Deja vous...$2 million stormwater bond]
According to the OD article:
But Oneida County Commissioner of Water Quality and Water Pollution Control Steven Devan said he is under the gun. The state Department of Environmental Conservation in 2007 slapped Oneida County with a consent order to fix the sewage problem by the middle part of this decade.
“I have to start before I have all the answers,” Devan said.
Got to love it...Business as usual in Oneida County!
And, should residents in New Hartford feel good about the fact that our former Highway Superintendent seems to have a front row seat in deciding how to spend our money? After all, a lot of the cause for the DEC Consent Order occurred under his watch as New Hartford Sewer Superintendent. In fact, under Mr. Cleveland's watch, the town database of sewer users was not properly maintained to the point that the town now has no idea who the sewer users actually are for certain. Many "sewer users" are not being charged...while others are picking up the tab for those sewer users that are not required to pay anything because of an improperly maintained database.
According to a memo written to the previous town board by former Highway Superintendent Roger Cleveland, there are 6,367 parcels subject to special district charges for sewer. However, Concerned Citizens has access to the assessment database [a compendium of information relating to parcels in the Town of New Hartford] and also has the ability to create reports using the data contained therein. According to the report we ran, there are 6,390.5 sewer users that are actually identified in the database; .5 because one user is only being charged for 1/2 a unit [not sure why only one person is charged 1/2 unit and we are pretty sure no one in town will be able to tell us why either].
However, parcels in several areas of town that should be identified as sewer users are NOT identified as such in the database; we are guessing perhaps up to 200 maybe more sewer users that are not identified and therefore are not paying sewer maintenance fees to the town [that's not to mention the discrepancy in how mobile home parks are charged the fees]. Some of the maintenance fees that have been collected by the town are accumulating in the Sewer Fund; that would be the fund that has about $1.6+ million sitting in it and has been identified as a possible source of money to pay for some of the Consent Order fixes.
To further complicate the situation...In our research we found out that according to page III-1 of the Oneida County Sewer Uses Ordinance of August 2008:
A municipality owning sewers within the bounds of the Oneida County Sewer District(s) and using the County interceptor and public sewers tributary thereto shall:Let's all guess...where will the Mohawk Valley Water Authority get their information as to who is a sewer user that should be charged the $1.05 per 1,000 gallons needed to make the fixes required by the Consent Order; and where has the water authority gotten their information for Oneida County Sewer District charges that are currently on the water bills? Hmmm...could it be the list of sewer users that the town is required to submit to the Oneida County Sewer District on an annual basis?
(1) submit a user inventory on an annual basis...
If that is how the water authority determines who to bill for sewer charges on the water bill, it is safe to say that while some of us having been paying Oneida County Sewer District charges on our water bill and are now being told we have to pay additional money that will be used somewhere to fix something, the non-identified sewer users will be sitting fat, dumb and happy to use a benefit they don't pay for either at the town level or the county level.
Concerned Citizens has made the town aware of the problem. In fact the town has been made aware of many problems in the assessment database for the last seven (7) years. It seems to always fall on deaf ears...but maybe this time it will be different!
By the way, you can read the entire Oneida County Sewer Use Ordinance online.
Strikeslip has more on the Consent Order charges on his blog, Whitestown Users Paying for New Hartford's Sewers?
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Mr. Cleveland and Mr. Devan asked that the Town Board pass a resolution allowing a separate charge of $1.05 per 1,000 gallons of water usage on the quarterly MVWA water bill for all sewer users starting with the February 2010 billing. That's on top of the charge most sewer users are already paying to the Oneida County Sewer District as part of their quarterly water bill which, by the way, will now also include a 39 cent increase per 1,000 gallons for all sewer users hooked up to the Oneida County Sewer District’s lines. That means that the total increase on the next water bill for all sewer users will actually be $1.44 per 1,000 gallons of water usage.
According to a handout provided at the meeting, the $1.05 is only a first year surcharge for all sewer users and the money collected [approximately $1.2 million] will be used to build a debt service reserve. The rate may change in subsequent years as costs by community become more well defined. Now all the town has to do is figure out how to accurately identify every parcel that is considered a sewer user...
The town board opted to not pass the resolution at this meeting, but rather to place it on the agenda for the next town board meeting on January 27, 2010.
Here is an excerpt of the town board meeting with Roger Cleveland's presentation:
A handout was also provided with more information.
There were many other topics discussed at the last town board meeting. We will have a video of the entire board meeting online this week.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
According to the article, Picente says:
“I don’t want to keep having meetings in terms of the exploration” “I want to talk to them both and say are we going to do this or not.”Really? Then by now Mr. Picente or someone from his office must have contacted the Department of State regarding a Shared Services Grant. Right, Mr. Picente?
A recent Letter to the Editor from Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez, New York secretary of state said in part:
An important goal of the Paterson administration is to reduce our local property tax burdens and ensure that all New Yorkers are receiving value from their tax dollars. We at the Department of State encourage towns, villages and school and special districts to work with us and each other to make certain that this happens.Ms. Cortes-Vazquez goes on to say:
Through the Local Government Efficiency Grant Program, the Department of State works with local governments to reduce the cost and complexity of services. In the last three years, local governments saved some $350 million with a $40 million public investment in 240 shared-services projects all across the state.Interesting...because on October 26, 2009, after reading an article in the Observer Dispatch about consolidation "talks", Concerned Citizens initiated a telephone conversation with Mr. Robert Roeckle at the State Department regarding consolidation of 911. A copy of the report and a summary of our conversation with Mr. Roeckle was emailed to Councilwoman Christine Krupa on November 4, 2009.
Mr. Roeckle told us that right now the State has money available under their Shared Services Program to help with the costs of consolidation. Mr. Roeckle sent us a copy of the consolidation report done by Schenectady County using money from a Shared Services Grant they obtained from the State. In the case of Schenectady County they received $100,000 for their study and another $1 million to implement the consolidation.
Let's stop playing politics, Mr. Picente! There is grant money available so that no one has to bear the burden of any related consolidation costs. Besides, upon information and belief, Oneida County is the designated Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), and all New Hartford and Utica have to do is give the County notice that they are out of the 911 business and Oneida County has to take it over!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Interesting Planning Board meeting last night. Jerome Donovan was voted temporary Chair until a new Chairman is named; Mr. Donovan accused a Town Councilman of being a possible plaintiff against the town in regards to the GEIS; three members of the town board were in attendance at the Planning Board meeting without prior notice to the public. Acting Planning Board chairman, Jerome Donovan, invited the three town board members plus the Deputy Supervisor and Town Attorney to attend an executive session [in violation of the Open Meetings Law] called by the Planning Board to discuss "employment histories of Planning Dept and Planning Board personnel".
The Open Meetings Law is very clear; if a majority of a public body gathers to discuss public business, it is considered a meeting that falls under the Open Meetings Law regardless if there is any intention of taking action. Second of all, it is questionable if Mr. Donovan's explanation for the executive session, "employment histories of Planning Dept and Planning Board personnel", is a legitimate reason for an executive session.
We refer to an opinion letter from Robert Freeman, Executive Director of the Committee on Open Government. The Town of Williamson Comprehensive Plan/Master Plan Committee invited members of the Town Board, the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the School Board to a meeting to review the Comprehensive Plan much like the NH Planning Board invited the town board to their meeting and executive session.
According to Robert Freeman's Opinion Letter:
From my perspective, if a majority of the members of any of the boards to which you referred was present at the gathering in question, the gathering would, in my opinion, have been a "meeting" subject to the Open Meetings Law. Further, I believe that each of those boards for which a majority was present would have been obliged to provide notice in accordance with §104 of that statute.Mr. Freeman further states in his opinion letter:
...the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, found that any gathering of a quorum of a public body for the purpose of conducting public business is a "meeting" that must be convened open to the public, whether or not there is an intent to take action and regardless of the manner in which a gathering may be characterized...So what is the obligation of the town board when faced with this scenario. A public body cannot conduct an executive session prior to a meeting. Every meeting must be convened as an open meeting and a notice of a meeting must be given to the public in advance. Then as part of the open meeting a majority vote of its total membership [in this case the town board as well as the Planning Board] has to be taken before entering executive session. No notice was given to the public regarding a meeting of the town board at the Planning Board meeting nor was a vote taken by the town board to go into last night's Planning Board executive session.
Question was raised by those in attendance as to the legality of the town board members attending the executive session, but they seemed to go upon deaf ears. Mr. Donovan insisted that the executive session was legal, but Mr. Wiatr asked Mr. Donovan what authority did he contact regarding inviting town board members to the executive meeting. Mr. Donovan said that he asked the town clerk. Well there's some legal authority for you! How about bringing it to the attention of the town attorney prior to the meeting so that he could get a LEGAL opinion on how the Open Meetings Law might come into play in this instance.
During the discussion as to the Open Meetings violation, Mr. Tyksinski stated to us that he agreed with us that the meeting would constitute a violation of the Open Meetings Law. We shut off our cameras after the vote to go into executive session was taken, but we turned them back on when the relevancy of the OML was discussed. Here is that portion of the meeting.
As you can hear, Mr. Donovan assured the Town Attorney that no action was going to be taken and the Mr. Cully made it clear that he was concerned about Open Meetings violations. However, as we already pointed out, according to Robert Freeman, meetings still come under the Open Meetings Law regardless of whether there is intent to take any action. While Attorney Cully stated that he wanted to make sure that the Open Meetings Law was not violated, it was apparent that he is not completely familiar with the law. Mr. Donovan should have contacted Town Attorney Cully prior to the meeting to allow him time to research the law; the Town Attorney is the authority that should have been contacted, not the Town Clerk.
The executive session started with all members of the Planning Board and the invited town board members and others in attendance. However, much to the credit of Supervisor Tyksinski, upon information and belief, he left the executive session shortly after it started because he was uncomfortable with the whole scenario.
The Observer Dispatch is right on target with their editorial in today's newspaper, New Hartford transparency key to trust; Supervisor Tyksinski must show residents that maintaining an open government is paramount to his administration. We think Pat went a long way in showing that last evening when he walked out of the executive session shortly after it began.
We also have to point out that the attack on Councilman Backman by Mr. Donovan was uncalled for and the matter should have been discussed behind closed doors [and probably would have come under the 'pending litigation' part of the Open Meeting Law regarding executive session]. However, Mr. Donovan chose to publicly air this diatribe even though he obviously did not have all the information he needed to make the accusations and statements that he made last evening. Mr. Donovan apparently was just out to publicly attack the councilman who has been outspoken in his disapproval of the 5-acre requirement contained in the Generic Environmental Impact Study (GEIS) for the Southern end of town.
Here is a videotape of the Planning Board Meeting held on Monday, January 11, 2010.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
According to the article, town reserves are depleted; newly elected Town Supervisor Pat Tyksinski will need to find a way to meet the next payroll due on Thursday. Town Supervisor Tyksinski is quoted as saying:
One way or another, the town will pay its employees...Some other payments that were set to go out will be delayed, and money from early property tax payments also could be used.Let's not kid ourselves folks, at this point the town is robbing Peter to pay Paul. The town board has a big job in front of them; drastic cuts will have to be made in order to bring New Hartford back to where it was just 4 short years ago.
Concerned Citizens will be watching and reporting, but it is also incumbent on town residents to take an active role in town government by attending town board meetings, asking questions and volunteering to serve on committees and boards as openings occur.
The Swearing In Ceremony took place on January 1 at noon in Butler Hall followed by a short reception.
Afterwards the new town board held the organizational meeting; the first town board meeting of 2010.
The next town board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 13, 2010. We will post the agenda as soon as it is available.