September 17, 2019
Lakeland school taxes: Because of a Putnam Country error, Yorktown residents were overcharged $85,000. They will be credited in next year’s tax bill.
Turkey Mountain tree cutting: DEP will be cutting approximately 3,000 “older” trees (but 1,200 regulated under the current Tree Law) in order to facilitate the growth of younger trees.
Farms: Councilwoman Roker announced that she is working with Mr.Tegeder on a partnership plan involving Yorktown’s farms. No details were provided.
Kim Adams Penner was reappointed to a 6 year term as town assessor.
3. Ethics discussion
(See Town Board 9-10-2019.) After Councilmen Lachterman and Patel waived their right to privacy, Supervisor Gilbert read a statement announcing the board’s decision re Councilman Lachterman’s 2017 complaint against Councilman Patel. (Note: The substance of the complaint, never publicly explained, was that Councilman Patel disclosed to the public a closed session discussion about the town paying $2,500 for Supervisor Grace to hire a private attorney to represent him in a complaint filed with the Grievance Committee of the Ninth Judicial District. The complaint was filed by the person writing this summary.)
Reading from a written statement, Supervisor Gilbert said that the board had received the findings of the Ethics Board in March, 2019 that Councilman Patel had violated the Ethics Law when he disclosed confidential information discussed in a closed executive session. After the board tried but was unable to get clarification from the Ethics Board, Councilmen Diana and Roker and Supervisor Gilbert ultimately decided to reject the Ethics Board’s recommendation that Councilman Patel be censured as Councilman Patel did not personally benefit from the disclosure and instead agreed to a lesser rebuke, a warning not to disclose any future executive session discussions.
Supervisor Gilbert said that Councilman Lachterman was aware of the decision and had no objection at the time. But Councilman Lachterman insisted the board’s decision be voted on at a public meeting and he insisted on what he called the “sanctity of the closed session.” He denied that he brought up the issue for political reasons. When Councilman Diana made a motion to have the board accept the Ethics Board’s findings, Supervisor Gilbert and Councilwoman Roker initially declined but eventually voted to accept the findings, noting that the board was only warning, not censuring, Councilman Patel.
Several people addressed the issue during Courtesy of the Floor. Some said that ethics issues involving elected officials should be made public. Others supported Councilman Patel for informing the public how taxpayer funds were being spent. Ed Ciffone stated that he had initiated a lawsuit in 2017 challenging the legality of the board’s vote to pay for Supervisor Grace’s private attorney. Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary, said that according to the NYS Committee on Open Government, the information Councilman Patel disclosed was not confidential and that therefore he did not violate the Ethics Law. Others talked about the need to revamp the Ethics Law.
4. Courtesy of the Floor
Tree removal on Route 6: Displaying a large photo of the Toys R Us building, a resident raised questions about what she said were 35 trees along Route that had been cut down without a tree permit, adding that when she raised the issue with the Engineering Department, she was told that no penalty or fines had been issued. Supervisor Gilbert said he had been informed that the trees were dead but that he might have been misinformed.
Councilman Diana noted that when the lease holder for the Shallow Creek golf course illegally cut down trees more than six months ago, he was told to return to the board with a restoration plan within one month but never did. The lease holder was, however, expected to appear before the board at next week’s work session.
Councilwoman Roker asked why the town still didn’t have an environmental consultant.
Illegal signs: Dan Straus called the board’s attention to the unsightly temporary signs (excluding election signs) that he said wee a blight on the community and asked what was being done about them.
Yorktown Green Shopping Center: In response to comments about how vacant stores like the Food Emporium help the commercial property owners get their tax assessments reduced, Councilman Roker and Supervisor Gilbert said they are working with state Senator Harckham on a change in the state law that would limit a property owner from continuing to file tax certiorari claims without a show of good faith that he is trying to rent the vacant space at a reasonable and fair market rate. It was explained that up until about 2-3 years ago, A&P was paying the rent on the Food Emporium space. Regarding Kmart, Supervisor Gilbert said that if the store did not relinquish its lease, the ultimate disposition of the lease may be decided by a bankruptcy court and that Oster Realty did not, at least for now, control the future of the space.
Ethics Board: Calling the board dysfunctional, Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary, said she was still waiting for a decision on a complaint she filed with the Ethics Board a year ago. She said that if members of the board weren’t interested in holding meetings, the Town Board should ask them to resign and appoint new members.
Summit Hill. Residents from Jefferson Village who oppose the proposed 150 unit rental project, stated that the power lines that traverse the site were a health hazard. In response to questions about when the developer would be submitting additional information, Supervisor Gilbert said that the information would be submitted to the Planning Board.
Fund Balance: In response to Mr. Ciffone’s question about how much money the town is allowed to keep in its fund balance, Supervisor Gilbert said that he had been advised by auditors from the state comptroller’s office that 15%-20% was recommended and he was not aware of any legislation that dictated a cap. He said he was told that it was up to each town to decide what was the appropriate amount.
Fire marshall: In response to question from Matt Slatter, Supervisor Gilbert said that the new fire inspector had completed close to 40 inspections since being hired.
5. Sunoco station, Route 6/public hearing on special permit for new sign
(See Town Board, 9-10-2019.) The applicant advised the town that the DOT said it would not issue a permit for the removal of the plantings along Route 6. Two residents supported the new sign. The board closed the hearing and voted to grant the permit for the sign with the monument base.
6. Garbage contract
The board postponed voting to renew the garbage contract with AAA Carting for an additional year pending a discussion with the vendor about service issues at the September 24 work session. Councilman Diana said he had received calls about very early morning pick ups. Supervisor Gilbert and his assistant Mr.Glass said that this issue had been addressed and may have resulted from a change in the pick up schedule. In general, Supervisor Gilbert said that the department that oversees the vendor was satisfied with the service.
While Councilman Diana initially wanted the board to go out for a new bid, the town attorney advised that this could be a risk because the new price could be higher than the price locked into the original contract that Councilman Diana had voted for. Mr. Diana, however, thought a new bid might come in lower. It was explained that if the town did go out for a new bid, it would lose the opportunity to renew the existing contract. Supervisor Gilbert said that based on conversations with other town supervisors,Yorktown was in a good position vis a vis its contract.
NOTE; Because of upcoming religious holidays, the board’s October 1 and October 8 meetings are cancelled. No decision has been made yet about a possible rescheduling.