New Lebanon Town Board Action – December 2011
by Thaddeus Flint
The New Lebanon Central School District’s Superintendent, Karen McGraw, was the featured guest at Monday’s New Lebanon Town Board meeting, and she delivered upbeat news on the District’s finances as she worked to bridge what she saw as a “perceived disconnect between the Town Board and the School Board.”
The School District is financially stable, she explained, and credited the current School Board for having avoided “the huge fiscal challenges facing our neighboring districts.” The tax levy has not gone up in two years, and, in fact, “in the Town of New Lebanon, overall,” she pointed out, “individual tax amounts went down.”
McGraw and the School Board are continuing to look ahead. At the moment McGraw is drafting a grant proposal to fund a study on the feasibility of a possible consolidation of the New Lebanon and Chatham school districts. She stressed that right now there is little need for consolidation, but with New Lebanon losing 5% of its enrolment every year – the State average – there could be a need in the future. McGraw wants to prepare a plan that may or may not be needed. “Start now when you are not in a panic,” she said. Just the feasibility study alone could take up to two years. “We want to make sure,” she said, “that it makes sense financially and that most of all it benefits the students.” The choice of Chatham for McGraw is a logical one, as it is close by and economically solid as well.
The School Board has also recently begun looking into a proposal from Questar III for taking over the District’s transportation needs. There is a “real possibility for savings there,” stated McGraw, “thousands of dollars.” Once again the needs of the students would come first, though in this case the needs of the employees would also have to be weighed. “People would probably actually not loose employment,” she said, “but there is a human impact on having your employer changed.”
Town Supervisor Margaret Robertson thanked McGraw for her efforts and future intentions to return periodically to Town Board meetings with updates on the District. “Hopefully,” said Robertson, “this will be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”
The Town’s not so beautiful relationship with Hannaford Supermarkets might be improving. Council Member Doug Clark announced that both he and Fiona Lally of the Lebanon Valley Business Association are trying to coordinate a public information workshop on the Routes 20/22 corridor for late January or early February. It is hoped that J.M. Lord, Hannaford’s site engineer, will attend and speak on “what some of the challenges are to put a new large business in the Town,” said Clark. Hannaford should know exactly what these challenges are since they seemed insurmountable for the grocery giant this year.
Robertson has also been in contact with Hannaford. The company has told her it would look into the possibility of having the vacant supermarket that still exists be equipped to sell Hannaford products but without it actually being a true Hannaford Supermarket.
In fact, in that very plaza where Hannaford could have been, there might possibly be a new Bank of Greene County. Of course Bank of America is there now. The small branches, however, have been closing around the country “by the thousands,” said Robertson, who has never made it a secret that she dislikes the practices of the Bank of America. At one meeting when a resident asked what the large Bank of America fee listed on the monthly Supervisor’s report was for she said, “It’s an analysis fee. That means someone at Bank of America opened up our account on a computer and looked at it for maybe five minutes and by doing so any interest we had recently earned suddenly disappeared.” Robertson stated that she was, of course, against any business closing in the Town, but she could also understand residents wanting better services and less fees. “So those are two very positive points to look forward to in the near future,” she said.
Winter might be something else to look forward to for New Lebanon residents. Scott Larabee of the Town’s Recreation Commission once again updated the Board on his plans to have a sledding hill and ice rink up and running as soon as possible. His estimates for lumber and plastic sheeting to transform the Pavilion at Shatford Park into the rink were approved with all in favor. The plans for a sledding hill are a bit more complicated though. It seems if a Town wishes to let somebody walk up a snowy hill with a sled and then slide back down it, they first need a lawyer to look into the matter. The Town’s lawyer was on hand and recommended that instead of having a $1 million insurance policy it would probably be more prudent to have a $3 million policy. A vote was taken, and all were in favor of insuring snow on an incline for $3 million. Councilman K.B. Chittenden had to abstain, though, as the hill is located on his property. “That means you have to go down the hill first,” Clark said to Chittenden.
The Board then voted unanimously to accept Cynthia Creech onto the ever growing Recreation Commission. Creech is well known locally for her efforts in saving a rare breed of American cattle called the Randalls. “We expect good things from you,” said Robertson, “and maybe cow races!”