The Woodstock Town Board unanimously appointed Bill McKenna to be town supervisor through 2017, just two days after longtime supervisor Jeremy Wilber’s death on New Year’s Day. McKenna assumed the role officially at the board’s annual organizational meeting January 3.
Fighting through tears and the occasional sobs, Town Clerk Jackie Earley administered the oath of office to McKenna in front of the Town Board and a handful of onlookers.
McKenna told the board he is ready to take over as supervisor, but “I hoped it would be several more of his terms down the road,” he said, referring to Wilber. “Jeremy was a great teacher and a great student.”
Though his terms were nonconsecutive, Wilber was the town’s longest-serving supervisor after 13 years and a day. Despite being in hospice care since October 31, Wilber was still conducting town business via phone calls, emails and daily meetings with McKenna through the end of December.
McKenna’s appointment was followed by Town Board members and others recalling memorable interactions with Wilber as they paid tribute.
While they weren’t at polar opposites on issues, “more often than not, we came at it from different positions” but both ended up coming to an agreement, McKenna said. At times, McKenna would be ready to pound the supervisor’s office door down, but Wilber would calmly listen and they’d come to a consensus, he recalled.
Earley shared her first exchanges with Wilber when she was working as a dispatcher. When Wilber first ran for office in the 1990s, people were intimidated by him. Shortly after winning his first term, Wilber came to the dispatch office and called Earley aside.
“I said ‘I’m done, I’m so done.’ I’m in that big old empty Town Hall. We’re sitting and he pulls up a chair. He goes ‘Jackie, I just want to let you know there’s nothing bad between you and me. You’re an employee. I’m the supervisor. Let’s be friends.”
Ethics Board member and frequent meeting attendee Iris York said she had known Jeremy for about 40 years. Her most memorable moment was when she and Wilber were part of a group fighting sewer rate hikes. They were walking down Mill Hill Road and he was carrying a toilet in protest.
McKenna said his first lengthy exchange with Wilber was about 20 years ago. “I remember listening to him and thinking, my God, he wanted to tax second home owners double and all these wild ideas. I was a contractor making a good living off second homeowners,” McKenna said. “I was saying this guy’s nuts, but he did come around.”
Councilwoman Laura Ricci’s first interaction with Wilber was as a cast member in a play he had written, directed and produced as a fundraiser to rebuild the Woodstock Playhouse, which had been destroyed by fire. Ricci said she supported his run for supervisor based on how he was able to take charge of the show and deal with a cast of hundreds.
Wilber often said the current town board is the best one he’d worked with and “he was very optimistic we would go forward and continue what we’ve been doing,” said Councilwoman Cathy Magarelli.
McKenna had to resign from his position as councilman, leaving a vacant seat.
There is no formal mechanism in place for filling the town board vacancy, so after some discussion, the board decided to solicit letters of interest from Woodstock residents.
Those interested can write to Town Clerk Jackie Earley, 45 Comeau Drive, Woodstock, NY, 12498 or send an email to email@example.com.
The board hopes to make an appointment by the end of January.
The Town Board appointee and McKenna will be up for election to a full term in November.
Year-end surplus means cash for projects
At its year-end meeting, the board closed the books and used surplus funds to set aside money for capital projects. Among them were improvements to the Mountain View parking lot and replacement of the Town Hall roof.
By establishing the Mountain View parking lot capital project fund, the board will have money to provide limited paving for handicap access, delineate parking spots and provide landscaping and grading. The project is estimated to cost $45,000. Of that, $17,115.37 will come out of a surplus from the Yerry Hill Road bridge project and $27,884.63 from the General Fund surplus.
The board transferred $60,000 from the General Fund surplus into the Town Hall roof capital project.
The current roof is 30 years old, well past its expected lifespan, McKenna said.
A transfer of $75,000 from the Water Department operating budget and another $25,000 from the Water Fund will allow the town to put money toward exploring a new wellhead near Rick Volz Field.
The town transferred $10,000 from the General Fund surplus to the Vehicle Capital Reserve to contribute to the cost of an electric or hybrid vehicle. Through its use, the town will promote alternative energy and save money on travel costs for officials.
A $20,000 transfer from the Sewer Fund surplus will offset the cost of installing reed beds at the wastewater treatment plant. It will save the town the cost of transporting excess effluent for treatment.
Paid and volunteer appointments
The Town Board made the following appointments to various paid staff and consulting positions:
Town Clerk Jackie Earley, Registrar of Vital Statistics, Records Management Officer, Tax Collector and Records Management Officer.
Kerry Muldoon, Confidential secretary to the Supervisor.
Kevin Peters and Debra Hastie, Deputy Superintendents of Highways.
Lynn Sehwerert and Michelle Osuna, Deputy Town Clerks.
Pamela Boyle, HIPPA Officer.
Fire Chief Kevin Peters, Emergency Disaster Relief Coordinator.
Dominic Scarlersio, part-time traffic monitor.
Rod Futerfas, Town Attorney, $165 per hour.
John Grant, special counsel to the Planning Board, $165 per hour.
Kimball & O’Brien CPA, preparation of annual financial statement, $3750.
The following were appointed:
To the Environmental Commission: David Gross, Ann Brandt and Bill Dublier through 12/31/18.
Maria Mendoza was appointed chair of the Zoning Board through 12/31/17 and David Biedler was appointed to the ZBA through 12/31/21.
Tim Keefe, Board of Assessment Review through 12/31/21.
Peter Cross, Planning Board through 12/31/23.
John LaValle, Planning Board chair through 2017.
David Ekroth, Commission for Civic Design chair through 2017.
To the Comeau Stewardship Advisory Committee through 12/31/18: Terry Funk-Antman, Rosalind Dickinson and Patricia Jackson. Funk-Antman will be chair through 2017.
Alison Dodd and Iris York were appointed to the Ethics Committee. Dodd will serve as chair through 2017 and York’s term will expire 12/31/19.
Tamara Cooper was appointed Volunteers Day coordinator for 2017.
The following organizations each will receive a $100 donation from the town:
Catskill Center for Photography, Maverick Concerts, Performing Arts of Woodstock, Woodstock Artists Association & Museum, Woodstock Chamber Orchestra, Woodstock Historical Society, Woodstock School of Art, Pan American Dance Foundation (Woodstock Playhouse), Woodstock Poetry Society, Woodstock Guild, Woodstock Film Festival, Woodstock Volunteers Day and Ars Choralis.