Woodstock supervisor lays out the challenges of 2018

Bill McKenna (photo by Dion Ogust)

Rising costs, tax caps and short-term rentals are just some of the hurdles Bill McKenna faces as he begins his first elected term as supervisor. “The constant challenge year to year is dealing with a two-percent cap and costs that are rising a heck of a lot more than two percent, like health care and retirement,” McKenna said as he spoke about things to come in 2018. He said the goal is to “give people the biggest bang for their tax buck.”

In the next couple months, the Comprehensive Plan Committee will be winding down its work and submitting a final document to the Town Board. “Then we’ll be moving ahead to adopt that and start to implement some of its recommendations,” McKenna said. “So I think that’s going to be a big challenge over the next 12 to 18 months.”

Several projects to begin this spring

As soon as the warmer weather returns, work will begin on reed beds at the wastewater treatment plant, something that has been in the works for awhile, the supervisor said. “The management plan has been passed off to the DEC, so I hope that by spring we’ll be permitted to do that construction. That will be pretty quick…Less than a month, so it’s not a huge project.”

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It will provide savings to the ratepayers in the sewer district. Sludge from the treatment plant must now be regularly trucked to Albany for further treatment and disposal. The reed beds will filter out the harmful bacteria and other pathogens, leaving nutrient-rich soil that, depending on test results, may be sold or given to town residents. Under the worst-case scenario, the town can safely dispose of it in a landfill.

The town’s main thoroughfare will finally get some much-needed attention, thanks to the Governors’ Office of Storm Recovery. In the wake of hurricanes Irene and Sandy, the state awarded money to help communities reduce the impact of major storms. Woodstock opted to use part of $3 million allocated to the town to help fund the state Department of Transportation refurbishment of Mill Hill Road and a larger culvert on Reynolds Lane.

“We hope to see work done in the middle of town, 212, which is going to be somewhat disruptive, but needed,” McKenna said. The plan is to tear up the Mill Hill Road portion of 212, replace the non-functioning and teeth-rattling slot drain with a series of larger catch basins and replace the concrete road surface with asphalt.

“They will be doing it in the evening so that commerce during the day is impacted as little as possible,” McKenna said.

The Reynolds Lane culvert will be replaced to minimize impact to homes and to Route 212. “Some of the homes down from there are getting flooded and the water also comes out onto 212. So the idea is to make the culvert bigger in that spot, so that Route 212 doesn’t get compromised,” he said.

Safer pedestrian passage in the works

As part of its year-end closing of the books, the Town Board moved $50,000 from a surplus to re-establish a Sidewalks Capital Project Reserve Fund. This will set aside money to improve sidewalks and allow for more crosswalks in town. Many have complained about the poor condition of town sidewalks and this help will begin to address the concerns, McKenna said.

A priority crosswalk in front of Town Hall will come to $15,000 by the time engineering costs are tallied. Work by the volunteer Geezer Corps will defray some costs, particularly at the bridge over the Tannery Brook between Library Lane and the Town Hall. Pedestrians must now navigate past parked cars along the bridge abutment and into traffic. The Geezer Corps are discussing designs for a foot bridge that, with the cooperation of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, will allow pedestrians to safely keep away from traffic.

Short-term rentals

A committee headed by Councilman Richard Heppner recently made recommendations to the Town Board on what to do about the increase in short-term rentals made popular by websites such as Airbnb and VRBO. The town must balance the rights of homeowners to make extra income with the quality of life for year-round residents.

The board will tackle a fee schedule intended to pay for any increased enforcement and any changes will likely require zoning changes.

“It’s an issue over the next couple months I’m sure we’re going to deal with,” McKenna said.

On the flip side of short-term rentals is affordable housing, a topic that has come to the surface lately. McKenna and some on the board have had conversations about what to do to provide incentives to make it more available. Some ideas include former schools.

“I did have a brief conversation with members of RUPCO and we’ve got the West Hurley school, which was going to sell and then didn’t sell and had another buyer,” McKenna said. “While that’s not in Woodstock it’s certainly very close.” McKenna noted it probably wouldn’t be difficult to have the county’s UCAT bus go by there on its regular route.

There’s also been discussion about using the former Zena Elementary School at least partially for housing. Though plans were underway to turn the school into a music academy, McKenna said he hasn’t heard of any progress.

Comeau offices need work

And finally, the town managed to squirrel away $130,000 from a 2017 surplus into the Comeau Buildings Capital Project Fund.

McKenna said the town needs to make the town offices on Comeau Drive handicapped accessible. Right now, none of the offices on the second floor of what was a home, cannot be visited by people in wheelchairs. McKenna will work with the board on plans for an extension to move all the offices open to the public to the first floor. The second floor could then be used for storage or conference rooms.

Aside from the lack of accessibility, the main office and supervisor’s cottage also need to be modernized and the electrical wiring upgraded. “It’s not energy efficient or water-tight,” he said.

Other plans are to install a larger generator for the main office and to move the existing smaller one to the supervisor cottage to also supply backup power to the well pump.

The town may excavate a trench to bring power up Comeau Drive from Tinker Street. Now, overhead lines bring power from Broadview Road through the Comeau trails and are more prone to outages in bad weather.

“Other than that, we’re just going to continue to hum along like we have. I’m pretty happy where we’re at. I think we’ve got a great town,” he said. “We’ve got great town employees that really give a lot to their community. I feel lucky. We’ve got a good board that seems to really want to get things accomplished.”

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