To the applause of committee members who recommended the firm, the Woodstock Town Board voted to hire Behan Planning and Design as consultants to update the town’s Comprehensive Plan.
The seven-member Comprehensive Plan Committee unanimously chose the Saratoga Springs and New City-based firm out of four that responded to a request for proposals.
Behan was the lowest bidder at $65,285, though committee members said that was not a factor in the recommendation.
Committee members Kirk Ritchey and Sasha Gillman told the board December 14 the firm was chosen unanimously because of its understanding of the task at hand.
The other applicants were Barton & Loguidice of Liverpool, N.Y. at $79,000, BFJ Planning of NYC at $90,090 and Ferrandino & Associates of Elmsford at $125,000.
Councilman Jay Wenk, a vehement opponent of spending any taxpayer money on an outside consultant, was scheduled to present his rationale for why a group of volunteers can do the job free of charge. Wenk was unable to attend, but the board decided to pave the way for beginning talks with Behan.
The board will listen to Wenk’s proposal at a later date and consider a hybrid plan in which part of the work is done by volunteers. Behan is receptive to the idea, Deputy Supervisor Bill McKenna said.
McKenna noted he, too, was skeptical about spending more than $65,000 on consultants, but realized “a good comprehensive plan can help us get more funding.”
Councilwoman Cathy Magarelli said the town is changing rapidly and is seeing a lot of new construction, so it’s necessary to got “some fresh eyes” on the process.
The Comprehensive Plan is used as a guide for addressing town infrastructure, planning and development needs, but hasn’t been officially updated since its adoption in 1962, despite several attempts.
McKenna said he offered to start negotiations with Behan, but Supervisor Jeremy Wilber insisted on making the first phone call.
In addition to Ritchey and Gillman, the other committee members were Jill Fisher, John LaValle, Barry Price, Mike Stock and Paul Vanwagenen.
Reed beds to the rescue
The town is finally moving ahead on installing reed beds at the wastewater treatment plant, a step it hopes will eliminate the need to truck excess effluent to Albany for treatment.
The town had started designing reed beds in 2012 and 2013, but work was halted when the Department of Environmental Conservation said it couldn’t use a certain type of reed, or phragmites, which is an aquatic plant, in its beds because it was invasive, according to McKenna. Non-invasive phragmites can be used but require a larger bed, McKenna said.
In a reed bed, the phragmites introduce more oxygen into a pool of water, allowing bacteria to digest pollutants and break down ammonia into nitrates.
McKenna hopes the town can secure financing by January to begin construction.
The reed beds would not be in full operation the first year, because the reeds need time to take root, he said.
He noted minimal maintenance is required, other than “a little weeding.” Then, every 15-20 years or so, workers dig out one of the beds down to the roots and let the reeds grow again. What comes out can then be used as topsoil, he said.
Cost estimates are yet to be secured, but in the long run, it was noted, it should be cheaper than having to truck sludge to Albany.
Year-end, organizational meetings set
The Town Board set its year-end meeting for December 30 at noon and the annual organizational meeting for January 3 at 9 a.m. Both will be at the town offices, 45 Comeau Drive.