Letters (November 20-27)

mailHighway superintendent’s raise justified

I would like to explain the increase in pay to the town of Saugerties superintendent of highways. When Mr. Myer took office in 2012 his salary was $53,258 which at that time was considered low for that position in comparison to others that held the same office in Ulster County. At that time all salaries for elected officials were on hold in the town of Saugerties.

In Mr. Myer’s full three years in office he has done an excellent job. He has increased the highways fund balance by $1 million, increased training to his employees tremendously and upgraded needed equipment where necessary. He created a FEMA department under his control to handle the $3.5 million in FEMA funds for the town’s infrastructure damage caused by hurricanes Irene and Lee in 2011. Mr. Myer’s professional handling of the FEMA projects by his department has become a model for other municipalities in New York. Mr. Myer’s FEMA and Major Projects Department will now be working with the NY Rising money that the town will be receiving (close to $3.5 million) of which some will be for infrastructure.

Another reason for the low salary was that the prior superintendent was collecting retirement from New State and social security, making it limited as to what he could make, hence his salary stayed low for many years.

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Mr. Myer has earned an increase in pay that puts him close to his peers in Ulster County for his work done. The following is a list of municipalities in Ulster County with their 2014 superintendent pay and lane miles in their municipality (lane miles are not the only contributing factor, but must be weighed heavily when looking at pay):

Town of Woodstock $67,640 (155.62 lane miles)

Town of Ulster $60,000 (139.64 lane miles)

Village of Saugerties $70,470 (27.84 lane miles)

Town of New Paltz $62,500 (115.88 lane miles)

Town of Plattekill $61,458 (107.16 lane miles)

Town of Saugerties $53,258 (252 lane miles)

Although the increase to Mr. Myer seems large, we strongly feel that Mr. Myer has earned every dollar of this increase, which will make the salary for the position of the highway superintendent $65,000.

Gregory Helsmoortel
Town of Saugerties supervisor

 

Aesthetic & economic benefits of historic preservation

There are some Saugerties village politicians who are seeking to remove a protection in the zoning code that is essential to the stability and growth of the part of our economy (i.e., tourism) that depends on our attractiveness.

I’ve already straightened out some facts on this issue as an insider who served on the village’s Historic Review Board and now I want to address the practical losses the whole community suffers if these government officials make the zoning and board changes.

I am an artist. Anyone that is in the creative business understands that it survives by being in the right place.

While I ran my commercial studio in the town and then in the village, visitors from not just IBM headquarters but Time-Life, McGraw-Hill, the federal government GSA, and a who’s who of academic, entertainment and sports institutions discovered Saugerties through visits to my artist-based business here. And with my business here many other artists and crafts people also benefited.

The vibrant visual history of Saugerties has been a draw to many artists and the preservation and protection that this historic and visually exciting environment has been experiencing over the past 30 years adds to the overall image a professional artist projects in choosing Saugerties as home. What attracts those that make art likewise attracts those that appreciate art so artists are a larger factor in the village of Saugerties economy than our numbers imply.

A vibrant historical community proudly shows off where it came from. That’s its way of saying it knows where it’s going. Why is the most vibrant economic development of New York City in Brooklyn and SoHo’s historic neighborhoods? History attracts artists and artists attract patrons of the arts and if you are lucky enough to have a history and support structure to keep preservation from being ignored you get the bonus of being the centerpiece of economic development for the whole region.

The historic preservation law was designed to a large extent under the influence of artists from everywhere in the town and village because they wanted to live and work in such an environment. A Historic Review Board with a special focus on the importance of preservation as an attraction was made a requirement of the law to assure this. That Review Board oversight is something that has been in place since 1985 and all knowledgeable citizens of Saugerties with a memory of what Saugerties was like before 1985 know this has made a difference for the whole community and its economy.

The existence of an independent Historic Review Board, not influenced by local political considerations, would continue the village’s original commitment to historical and visual buildings and districts. Further, village financial support would mitigate the lackadaisical enforcement policies that have hampered the Historic Review Board for the past several years.

If this is clear to you please email the members of the Village Board and the mayor at addresses you can find on village.saugerties.ny.us and put your support behind retaining a Historic Review Board in the zoning code and supporting its guidance with enforcement where that is necessary.

Michael Sullivan Smith
Saugerties

 

Fix a misunderstanding, save an historic building

Starting in 1985, the year that the village passed its zoning law, the official zoning map was visibly on display at the village offices. This large 4’ X 5’ map was on the meeting table, under glass, and every Village Board, Planning Board, Historic Review Board and Zoning Board meeting took place on top of this official map. I have been a member of the Historic Review Board for 20 years and remember meetings using this map until about 2004; since then it has been stored in an adjacent shelf. Many past and some present members of boards remember this map. In about 2004 this map was digitized, with minor changes, and handed out and put on line. The Historic District was not — and never has been — changed.

There is on file another 1985, small 8 1/2” x 11” map noted “This map is illustrative only. The Official Zoning Map is on file in the Village Clerk’s Office and should be consulted for exact zoning district boundaries.” This map was a convenient handout before the days of the internet, and its boundaries are inconsistent with the large official zoning map.

Sometime in the last two years the old large map was put into deeper storage yet, and somewhat forgotten. Unfortunately, recently, an applicant for a site plan review has been given an interpretation, that an important historic house, 40 Partition St., which is within the Historic District, is not within the district. This interpretation was based on the small 1985 map and would allow the demolition of the house. But using this small map is based on a misunderstanding.

This misunderstanding is a result of not having the institutional memory about the large official zoning map. Fortunately it is now in hand and I am suggesting a simple correction. Adjust the interpretation to be consistent with the official zoning map. This would save the historic house and be the fair and right thing to do.

David Minch
Saugerties