Clerks, complaints, wellhead protection discussed by Woodstock board

Police Chief Clayton Keefe (photo by Dion Ogust)

Judges advocated for more clerk hours and the Woodstock Town Board discussed a rising trend in noise complaints during four hours of budget discussions on October 9.

In lieu of shorter sessions with department heads throughout the week, the board opted for one long discussion.

The previous week, Supervisor Bill McKenna proposed a 2019 town budget of $8,255,180 that will result in a 2.215 percent tax levy increase from $5,999,218 to $6,127,954, which is $68,120 below the cap.

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The spending plan does not include Fire and Library districts as those budgets are set by separate governing bodies.

In the course of the discussions, Police Chief Clayton Keefe noted a significant increase in noise complaints, particularly against establishments with outdoor music. A new noise ordinance adopted recently gives police the ability to act on complaints and largely leaves the issuing of tickets to the responding officer’s discretion. Formerly, the noise was addressed in the zoning law and could not be enforced by police.

Keefe suggested the new law would have more teeth and could be enforced more consistently if it included a decibel limit, though Councilman Richard Heppner was hesitant because it would become burdensome. He said a judge will require an officer to provide the dates of when a decibel meter used to measure the sound was last calibrated.

Some suggestions included placing a curfew on outdoor music or limiting it to acoustic after a certain time so it didn’t disturb neighbors late at night.

The board will discuss changes or addition to the noise ordinance at a later date.

Judges push more hours for clerks

Town Justices Richard Husted and Jason Lesko pressed for more hours for clerks Linda Rose and Kathy Longyear, who are dealing with a larger workload. Each is paid for 23 hours a week. The justices would like to have them work full time.

Lesko said issues he sees in court are getting more complicated with the new noise ordinance, short-term rentals and other items. Lesko invited board members to come to the courtroom on his DA nights, when he has 60 to 70 cases on the docket. He also noted he has a trial coming up soon, something that hasn’t happened in town in quite some time.

Unlike the past, summer isn’t the only busy time. “Winters aren’t slow anymore,” Lesko said. 

Husted said the amount of agencies the court must deal with, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Motor Vehicles increases the workload. Everything must be done according to procedure or a case could be tossed on a technicality, he explained.

Town Clerk Jackie Early suggested the two clerks work together instead of the current situation where they work separate hours. She said they could collaborate that way and get more work done without having their hours increased.

Both judges said they work together to some extent, though Lesko said he would rather have a dedicated clerk as it is now. Longyear is Lesko’s clerk and Rose is Husted’s clerk. Lesko said he wants his clerk up to speed on all aspects of every case on the docket.

No decision was made on increasing the clerks’ hours.

Importance of wellhead protection

Water and Sewer Superintendent Larry Allen reiterated his opinion that nothing should be built in the area of Rick Volz Field that interferes with the town water supply. He is opposed to proposals by the Recreation Task Force to expand facilities. Councilman Lorin Rose said he would like to see the dog park moved out of concern for the wells on the property.

The town has already granted approval for a new pavilion, something Rose feels shouldn’t have happened. However, he’s hesitant to pull approvals since the task force has raised nearly $35,000 in donations toward the estimated project.

In other water-related action, the board deferred voting on a resolution authorizing Layne Christensen Company of Schoharie to drill a 20-foot test well and perform a 72-hour pump test. The test well is estimated to cost $51,440, though it will become a permanent well if the test is successful. 

Allen has advocated for a new well because one of the wells partially collapsed when the pump was removed for replacement.

Board members said they don’t doubt the need for the well, but wanted to do more research. Former Supervisor John Mower, who lives near the wells, stressed the need for the town to issue a request for proposals and soliciting of bids because of the project scale and cost.

Town schedules sexual harassment training

The 2019 state budget requires towns to adopt sexual harassment policies and implement training. Woodstock already has such a policy within its employee handbook. To comply with the new requirement, it will distribute the specific section of the handbook and a complaint form to all employees. It will also conduct training sessions in November. Town Board and committee members must also participate in training.

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