Kicking off 2014 with its annual organizational meeting on Tuesday evening, Jan. 7, the Gardiner Town Board discussed its goals for the New Year and welcomed two new members: David Dukler, a Democrat, and John Hinson, who ran on the People for Gardiner party line. Just before the meeting, town justice Bruce Blatchly swore in Gardiner’s public officials elected or reelected in November: incumbent town supervisor Carl Zatz and town clerk Michelle Mosher, as well as new highway superintendent Brian Stiscia and town justice Robert Rich, in addition to the two new councilmen.
The reconstituted Town Board worked its way expeditiously through a list of 44 organizational resolutions, which mostly consisted of salary reauthorizations for town employees and contained little in the way of deviations from past practices. Warren Wiegand was reappointed for 2014 as deputy town supervisor, Mike Boylan as Planning Board chair and Mike Beck as Zoning Board of Appeals chair. Recent Planning Board recruit Raymond Sokolov was named as Gardiner’s representative to the Ulster County Planning Board, but according to Supervisor Zatz, no candidate has as yet stepped forward to fill the post of Emergency Management coordinator for the town for 2014.
Following an overview by Zatz of issues “in the hopper” expected to be the subjects of resolutions at meetings in the near future, Wiegand launched the goal-enumerating portion of the meeting by volunteering to “take responsibility for moving forward with a long-term strategic plan for Gardiner’s parks,” based on the priorities expressed by residents in a survey. He also expressed the wish to be involved in shaping a long-term plan for the town’s infrastructure, including roads, bridges, culverts and the highway department’s future heavy equipment needs, calling it “a good project to get a number of people involved, including Brian” Stiscia.
Wiegand asked that the Town Board be provided regular progress reports on the upcoming two-year revaluation process. He also requested that Town Hall post agendas for Town Board meetings earlier than the day of the meeting, preferably by the weekend preceding. After some discussion of how the agenda could be kept fluid to accommodate last-minute developments, the supervisor ultimately acquiesced, saying that henceforth he would have at least a tentative version posted on the town website by the Friday before — a promise that had already come true by presstime.
At the outset of his second year on the Town Board, Mike Reynolds expressed enthusiasm for the potential of modern software technology to provide solutions for the challenges of enhancing “government transparency and citizen engagement.” He said that he intended to continue his past collaboration with former Town Board member Rich Koenig in monitoring the development of the Gardiner transfer station and researching cost-effective alternatives to enhance recycling. Reynolds also wished to remain engaged in the ongoing process of disposing of surplus town properties.
With the new blood on the Town Board came some new areas of enthusiasm. David Dukler professed a “passion for bicycling,” saying that he was involved in New Paltz’s committee that is studying options for creating bikeways and would like to see the same sort of effort get underway in Gardiner. “I’ll be looking for ways at little or no cost how we can put Gardiner on the map as a destination,” he said, citing Rhinebeck’s use of interpretive signage geared toward two-wheeled tourists as a model. He also expressed hope that more citizen engagement in town decision-making could be fostered through “digital video streaming of meetings online.”
The other newcomer, John Hinson, was also thinking along the lines of better communication with Gardiner residents, notably with regard to financial accountability and public tracking of town expenditures. He said that he would also like to find ways to “streamline” communication among the various town boards and committees, noting that grant funding opportunities could be lost on account of timetables that don’t accommodate quick turnaround of applications. Hinson also indicated that getting a cell tower up and running in Gardiner as soon as possible is high on his list of priorities.
Zatz responded to Hinson that he too wanted to see a significant increase in grant funding for the town, saying, “We’re a lively community, but we’re pretty grant-poor.” He also agreed that “improving communication channels within the town” should be a priority, saying that Town Hall’s computer server would soon have enough capacity to host a low-power FM station. This would serve as one component of the supervisor’s campaign to “increase disaster awareness protocols,” mapping out zones and response plans based on such parameters as susceptibility to flooding, ice storms and so on.
Saying that he is a “big believer in committees,” Zatz encouraged the reconstituted Town Board to be proactive about breaking itself down into smaller working groups to address specific tasks as needed, and also urged its members old and new not to get bogged down in endless rehashing of issues when consensus is not possible. “Sometimes we just have to raise our hands and vote,” he said. “Government by representation is the rule; government by referendum is the exception.”