Friction arose at the annual reorganizational meeting for Shandaken’s town board January 4, over a suggestion by newly elected Shandaken board member Peter DiSclafani that volunteer appointments be postponed until February so he and Gail Alba, also elected in November, could familiarize themselves with the volunteers.
Martie Gailes, chair of the Parks and Recreation Board, expressed dismay over the proposed delay. She pointed out that that it’s difficult to get volunteers for the various boards and that the members-elect “had November and December to come meet with us, and nobody indicated any interest whatsoever. I think it’s an insult to people who volunteer their time and their effort to be told, ‘Oh no, we can’t vote on you, we have to get to know you.’”
DiSclafani, a former Shandaken town supervisor elected to the board in November, opened the reading of resolutions by making a motion that voting on planning and zoning board members, all volunteer positions, be put off till next month’s town board meeting. “It isn’t an insult onto people who have served,” he insisted. “These are boards who serve honorably. Yes, we could have been there any time, we’ve been watching [meetings] on TV, but if the town board, which does the appointing, begins in January, we do need some time to get up to speed. Putting it off one month is not an insult.”
Alba seconded the motion, which was then defeated, with board members Tim Malloy and Faye Storms, as well as supervisor Rob Stanley, voting no. Storms said she agreed with Gailes, commenting, “People have been serving, and people know what they’ve been doing all along. They had a long time to understand this.”
Stanley produced file copies of resolutions passed when DiSclafani served as supervisor in 2008-09, showing that when board members Malloy and Vin Bernstein were first elected, all boards were appointed in January. Stanley also noted that DiSclafani had questioned appointments to the ambulance squad in an email but made motions and seconds to approve stipends to the same personnel. “I don’t see where this is coming from,” said Stanley. “I think there’s another agenda here, and we can move on past it.”
The board went on to read and approve the resolutions for establishing this year’s town government. All resolutions were approved unanimously except for those concerning the planning and zoning boards. Alba and DiSclafani voted against the reappointment of Keith Johnson to the zoning board and John Horn to the planning board. Alba voted against reinstalling Johnson and Rolf Reiss as zoning chair and vice chair and against Donald Brewer and Kathy Jordan to the same positions on the planning board. DiSclafani voted yes on these positions.
Shandaken resident Kathy Nolan later spoke, suggesting the town board be included more actively in the process for interviewing people for the zoning and planning boards. “The boards have a natural inclination to recommend reinstalling members, and it’s a disincentive for new people to step up,” Nolan, who is also chair of the Catskill Heritage Alliance, stated. “Boards should reflect the diversity of the community. Some people are serving 14 or 15 years or more, and it’s time for new candidates.” She encouraged the board to extend the future terms of planning and zoning board members to February so new board members can interview prospective members.
Stanley responded, asserting that procedures for appointing volunteers to the boards are wide open and that town board members have never been barred from other board meetings. “We advertise for openings, and people can attend meetings, and maybe they’ll think, ‘Hey, I can do better than that,’ and decide to join.” However, he reiterated, it’s difficult to find volunteers who are willing to make the commitment required.
In other business:
Stanley announced that New York State has approved a grant for $415,000 to upgrade the Phoenicia water system. Projects covered will include completion of the High Street Loop over the Woodland Valley bridge, which will provide backup for the south side of the water district; installation of a new infiltration gallery and a third pump at the filtration plant; and TV inspection of the interior of the water tank and most water mains.
The town’s engineering firm, Milone and MacBroom, have completed their review of proposals for the Local Flood Analysis (LFA) for Phoenicia and Mount Tremper. A special meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, January 25, at the town hall to hear the engineers’ findings and recommendations. The LFA process, funded by New York City, is designed to determine what projects would be most helpful and cost-effective in preventing and dealing with flooding.