After her first year back in the Town of New Paltz supervisor’s chair, Susan Zimet has some big hopes for 2013. As many people in town might guess, consolidation is a big goal for her — as is controlling municipal spending.
However, in the short term, New Paltzians already have some clues about what’ll appear before the Town Board. Leftovers like passing a new ethics law, expanding on the good Zero Waste Initiative work done so far and getting new employee contracts hammered out will all be up for discussion.
Ethics were a huge focus for the Town Board early in 2012, and work to reshape the old law happened soon after Zimet, Jean Gallucci and Kevin Barry were sworn in as the new council members.
“We started working on that from the very beginning — until we were faced with an ethics complaint,” the supervisor said. “So it sort of got derailed.”
Last year’s Ethics Board investigation of Councilman Barry ultimately concluded that he’d not violated town law in discussing a plan to use New Paltz Middle School as a government center with school officials. Even so, the proceedings gave the Town Board an in-depth, close-up view of how the current law works. They’d used what they’d seen as a springboard into discussing the ordinance’s functionality and flaws — going so far as to outline the specifics of a new ethics law to the town attorney.
Made busy by the town budget, police retirements and town-village consolidation, board members did not end up voting on a proposed ethics law or even bring it to a public hearing. That could and should happen in 2013.
“We have a little bit more work to do on our ethics law,” Zimet said.
As one of only 13 communities nationwide to be named a Zero Waste Initiative pilot by the Environmental Protection Agency, New Paltz received a rare honor last year. Even with the new ReUse Center in place at the town Transfer Station, Supervisor Zimet said more can be done.
Town officials are also working with the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency, because they believe that close to $100,000 is owed to New Paltz by the county. Zimet said she’d track that money down.
Ohioville’s troubled sewer district, colloquially known in Town Hall as Sewer 6, was also an unresolved issue from this year. Old and in disrepair — and more than $62,000 in debt from constantly needing fixing — Sewer 6 has a deficit that is too large for its current users to pay alone. Town Board members had talked about borrowing money to finance fixes to the ailing Ohioville sewer, but they’d never got around to voting on it.
Zimet said she’d also push to re-examine New Paltz Police Department’s $60,000 annual lease of the C2G building on South Putt Corners Road. So expect town officials to search for an answer this year to find a permanent home for police officers — one that doesn’t come with a costly lease.
Very early on in the New Year, a pilot program with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to line New Paltz’s streets with trees will be a focus for the Town Board.
“Prior to getting involved in politics, I just thought New Paltz was the most beautiful place in the world,” the supervisor said. Even so, in her tours of duty as supervisor (the first time) and county legislator, Zimet started thinking of ways to beautify and improve the town. Tree-lined streets — especially on Main Street from the Thruway exit into town — were a big part of that vision.
“It’s really, really, really beautiful and calming. It has a whole different kind of effect,” she said. “I was really sorry I hadn’t done that.”
One key problem with that vision is land ownership. Street trees in a city are easy, because cities tend to own a right-of-way on the street. In New Paltz, there’s a complicated, interlocking grid of municipal and privately owned land. Al Wegener, the town’s arborist, has developed a plan with Jim Littlefoot that could potentially appease property owners and get the trees everywhere.
New Paltzians started last year hearing about the crossing guard situation at New Paltz Middle School. Crossing guard problems of a different sort will occupy some time for town officials in 2013. While school board members budgeted money to pay a guard in 2012, a strange quirk in state law makes it illegal for districts to pay for a guard off school grounds. Zimet wants to work with lawmakers in Albany to iron that out.
Also keyed up for early votes are the creation of a functional Town of New Paltz website and a resolution to the temporary closure of Lent Drive.
Larger goals for Zimet include keeping town spending down, holding taxes steady, trying to broker a deal where campus police officers could patrol in the town, resolving outstanding issues brought up in the state Comptroller’s Office audit and — of course — trying to consolidate the town and village.