Town Board Work Session

July 28, 2015


Contracts for auditing services and garbage collection




1. Audit presentation

The auditors presented the findings of the 2014 audit.  (The audit is available online.) For the General Fund, the town’s main fund, they reported that non tax revenue was $215,729 less than budgeted but that expenses were $1,482,292 lower than budgeted, resulting in what they called a surplus. While Supervisor Grace attributed the surplus to the hard work of town employees who were doing more with less, and the auditor noted that the town was able to generate a surplus while not cutting back on services, Councilman Patel asked whether certain projects had been postponed in order to reduce expenditures.   I cited the $81,000 surplus in the “buildings” expense category (an aggregate of several separate budget lines) and noted that $40,000 hadn’t been spent to repair the leak in the board room ceiling. In response, the auditor said the surplus resulted from savings across the entire budget.


Fund Balance. The General Fund fund balance increased by $208,378 for a total fund balance of $8.1 million The Highway Fund fund balance decreased by $93,047 and the Water Fund fund balance decreased by $1.2 million because expenses exceeded revenues. The total fund balance for all the own funds  decreased by $388,126, for a total of $19.6 million. Commenting on the General Fund fund balance, the auditor said the amount was not excessive.


In response to Councilman Patel’s question of how much money could/should be taken out of fund balance to cover increased expenses, the auditor said that this was a Town Board decision.


In the middle of the discussion, Councilman Bernard made a motion to give the auditor, O’Connor Davies, a new 3 year contract for 2015, 2016 and 2017. The motion was approved 4-1. Explaining that I had no problems with the O’Connor Davies work product, I voted against the contract because I believed that as a professional service it should have been advertised as a Request for proposals (RFP). Competition, I added, could lead to lower prices and might lead O’Connor Davies to “sharpen its pencil.”


2. Naming of Jack DeVito Veteran’s Memorial Field

Representatives of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars appeared before the board to request that the field be renamed Veteran’s Memorial Field.  Although there is a sign at the Veterans Road entrance to  the park that says Jack DeVito Veteran’s Memorial Field, they felt that when the field was referred to, it was usually the Jack DeVito Field or the DeVito Field and that the “ veterans” portion of the name was  being forgotten.  They also said that they could find no Town Board resolution that named the field.


A memo from former Supervisor Aaron Bock to Al Capellini recounting the events leading up to the dedication of the field and its naming in 1994 was read. The memo  made it clear that although no naming resolution had been passed, it was the board’s clear intent that the field be named Jack DeVito Veteran’s Memorial Field.


There was a consensus that although  it had become common practice to shorten the name to the  DeVito Field or Jack DeVito field, that going forward, all concerned would be more careful to use the full name that included the word “veteran’s.”


3. 2515 Garden Lane

Code Inspector Jason Zeif advised the board that he had hit roadblocks trying to resolve the demolition of the abandoned house that was in foreclosure with the bank that holds the mortgage.  The house has been boarded up for about 1½ years and neighbors have complained about the condition and its impact on their neighborhood.


While Supervisor Grace explained there were limitations as to what the town’s Unsafe Structure Law could do to remedy the situation, he advised the building department to begin  the paperwork to invoke the law., adding that he would get in touch with the law firm representing the bank.    If the building has to be demolished, he said it would have to be done by an asbestos removal contractor.


4. Wetlands law

At my suggestion, the board will begin to consider updating the town’s wetlands law. In a general discussion, the following areas were flagged as some of the areas where changes could be considered.


Threshold levels: whether the threshold levels requiring a permit should be raised for certain types of actions and whether the threshold that makes the Town Board the approving authority should be changed.   It was pointed out that putting footings for a deck required a permit but that  a garden that disturbed more buffer did not.


Wetlands function: As a possible alternative to fixed numeric thresholds that Supervisor Grace considered arbitrary, the town could consider the function of the wetland , with the implication being that not all wetlands are the same and that encroaching on a wetland or wetland buffer need not always be sacrosanct. Bruce Barber noted that the DEC has four categories of wetlands. As an example, Supervisor Grace cited some vacant parcels on Front St that recently received sewer permits, opening up the possibly of development and tax rateables.  He said that while the parcels meet the code’s current definition of a wetland because they have pockets of water, they might not be of critical importance.


E-Panel. All agreed that this informal group that has evolved over time serves a valuable purpose and  that its role should  possibly be written into the code


Public notification. The issue of how abutting property owners could be/should be notified if a permit application is dealt with on an administrative level that does not require a public hearing.


Appeals process: the current law does not contain an appeal procedure in the event a permit is denied. Supervisor


Approval authority: whether the Town Board should continue to be the approval authority for certain types of permits.


Escrow fees: Supervisor Grace wanted this also reviewed, but Councilman Bernard thought this was a broader subject that went beyond wetlands.


Mr. Barber will meet with other involved staff members and return to the Town Board with recommendations. No date was set.


5. Resolutions

The board appointed three new police officers and waived a $1,414 fee for the Red Cross to hold a blood drive in the YCCC during the October street fair.