The 194th Town Board of New Paltz was called to order Monday night by supervisor Neil Bettez for its reorganizational meeting, a sometimes tedious affair during which standard policies and business practices are tweaked or reaffirmed. It’s also a time for the new administration to switch things up in terms of appointed positions and liaison assignments. Bettez named Kathy Preston, who owned the Treehouse gift shop on Church Street until it closed last year, as his confidential secretary. Dan Torres will be assuming the duties of deputy supervisor and backup contact, should Bettez be unable to be reached during an emergency. The board also named former council member Kevin Barry as a special prosecutor, and appointed village Planning Board chairman Michael Zierler to serve on the town’s Planning Board, as well.
The appointment of Zierler wasn’t without some hiccups, first of which was likely convincing him to take on the additional duties. It’s perfectly legal for someone who resides in both village and town to serve on both boards, and Zierler made it clear he had no intention of resigning his position with the village. Another wrinkle came from town clerk Rosanna Mazzaccari, who insisted that the e-mail from long-serving member Peter Muller announcing his resignation was not sufficient for her records, which in her view required an original signature to make it official. Zierler’s appointment was made conditional upon receiving such a document from Muller. Lastly, council member Jeff Logan objected to appointing Zierler because past practice has been to appoint an alternate member to the board. That’s not something which is written into the law, but he maintained that the system allowed new members to avoid a steep learning curve. Deputy supervisor Torres noted that Zierler’s experience in the planning arena is already considerable, as he is already a member of a planning board.
“There is no rush to make this appointment,” Logan said. “We have alternates and we will have a quorum.”
However, other members believed that the Planning Board is presently working through some extremely complex issues, including the CVS project and Wildberry Lodge, both of which will impact one of the town’s most challenging intersections. The vote to appoint Zierler was unanimous, although Logan abstained.
Supervisor salary suggestion
During the portion of the meeting that is used to lay out salaries for public officials, board member Marty Irwin decided it was time to revisit the question of the supervisor’s salary, which was cut to $40,000 by the prior board. He recommended changing that figure to $50,000, conditioned upon Bettez not participating in the town’s health insurance plan, as he already has coverage from another source. There is $20,000 budgeted for that coverage, according to Torres.
“Legally we can’t change it at this time,” said Bettez, who wasn’t aware Irwin would be broaching the subject.
Torres wasn’t comfortable basing the decision on health insurance regardless, as he was mindful that successor supervisors might wish to participate in the plan.
Logan joked that Bettez might consider becoming the town’s dog control officer, perhaps as a way to increase his salary. He did make clear the suggestion was facetious, and took a moment to praise Jill Schulfeldt, who serves in that capacity.
While a plan was put forward to change the board’s meetings from the third and fourth Thursdays to the first and third, the board was persuaded by Logan that having the meetings in quick succession has some advantages. He pointed out that with the current setup, council members can leave town for a period of time without missing a meeting, something which might be impacted for holding them every other week. “We can always call special meetings when needed,” he pointed out.
Torres explained that the idea came out of a concern that the board sometimes has to wait several weeks to take an action, but he conceded Logan’s point.
As a comparison, Lloyd’s board meets on the first and third Wednesdays, while Rochester’s meets on the first and last Thursdays of the month.
Liaison assignments set
As is the privilege of the supervisor, Bettez determined which council members will serve as liaison to various groups in the community. Among them, Irwin will work with the justice court and assessor’s office, Torres was given the youth program and environmental commission, Logan will be in contact with the ZBA and highway department and Julie Lillis will report on the workings of the Planning Board and Moriello Pool. Bettez reserved town/gown meetings for himself, among other duties.