Stephentown Town Board Action – Stephentown To Pursue Elementary School Ownership
by David Flint
The Stephentown Town Board has given the go-ahead to their attorney to start reviewing the proposed contract with the Berlin School District for assuming ownership of the property of the former Stephentown Elementary School. At their meeting on Monday the Board passed a resolution authorizing Craig Crist of the Dreyer Boyajian law firm to look over the contract in detail, highlight what needs to be addressed and report back to the Board prior to their next Workshop meeting on August 13.
[private]Responding to questions raised by residents, Town Supervisor Larry Eckhardt said he believed the School Board was now waiting to hear from the Town. With input received at the public hearing last week he said there were a lot of questions yet to be addressed including the status of fuel tanks and asbestos. He assured residents that the Board would not jump into anything without due diligence and due process. “But let’s start the process of negotiation,” he said.
Regarding the school building itself, Eckhardt repeated his stance that the Board does not want to be property managers though they would have no problem with managing the playground, the basketball court and the soccer field. He noted, however, that some interesting suggestions had been made at the public hearing regarding the possibility of a private or non-profit entity taking over the building. In any case he warned that there might be costs involved in at least temporarily winterizing or mothballing the building. Board Member Bill Jennings noted that the Board had received a rough estimate of between $75,000 to $90,000 to demolish the building but that did not include dealing with asbestos. He has asked Buildings & Grounds Administrator Cyril Grant to provide the latest survey regarding asbestos in the building. Jennings said it might take some time to determine what’s possible, what needs to be done, costs, timing and so on – probably months. “There will be an ongoing dance here for a while,” he said.
What’s With The Motocross?
The Board passed a resolution agreeing to a decision by the Zoning Board of Appeals to hire Craig Crist to represent them in an Article 78 proceeding. The ZBA is being challenged for a decision they made in March regarding the access road for Howard Commander’s Motocross park proposed for a site off of Webster Hill Road. Specifically they upheld a determination by the Code Enforcement Officer that the access road was a necessary driveway and would not need a separate area variance despite being within 25 feet of a neighboring property.
Eckhardt noted, “We have been here before,” alluding to a previous Article 78 challenge filed by the attorney for opposing neighbors two years ago which overturned the ZBA’s granting of a use variance for the project. In the current case, however, he said that Crist had determined that the challenge was “very defensible.”
Joan MacVeigh expressed exasperation that the proposed project was taking so long to reach any resolution. The ZBA will just be starting to review a draft of the Environmental Impact Statement at their next meeting on August 2. Eckhardt agreed saying he has made clear his desire to have the matter resolved soon. “It’s costing too much,” he said, “not just for the applicant but also for the Town.”
Eckhardt said later that he is not sure who is at fault for dragging out the permitting process for so long, but he is concerned that it could send a message to other prospective businesses that if they want to settle in Stephentown they should get ready to spend a lot of time and money to get approved.
The Board has received one more proposal to replace the malfunctioning phone system at the Town Hall. The latest proposal for various levels of service is from Ecb Business Communications of Cropseyville. Eckhardt said it ranged up to $6,000 and was at the lower end cost-wise of proposals received so far. Officials at the Town of Petersburgh had suggested this company and this system because they use it and are happy with it. Town Clerk Stephanie Wagar said Petersburgh’s phone bill was reduced by $300 once they installed the system. She said the Town of Grafton also uses it.
Dominick Carlino complained about a driveway coming out onto Route 22 from the temporary storage and log yard across from Zwack, Inc. He said that twice he almost collided with a vehicle shooting out from that unmarked and hidden driveway. Carlino considers the driveway unlawful and insisted that something has to be done. Eckhardt said he would speak with officials at the State Department of Transportation.
Assessor’s Office On Vacation
Deputy Assessor Joan MacVeigh announced that the Assessor’s Office will be closed from August 1 to August 15.
Deposits And Spending
The Town Clerk reported she had turned over the sum of $355.48 to the Supervisor for the month of June. The distribution from the Office of the State Comptroller, Justice Court Fund to the Town has not yet been reported. The Transfer Station deposited a total of $6,805.
The Board audited and approved claims in the amount of $12,620.70 from the General Account and $23,819.80 from the Highway Account.
The Board set their next regular meeting for Monday, August 20, at 7 pm.
A Moment Of Silence
Eckhardt opened this meeting asking for a moment of silence for several departed Town residents. He said the Town had taken a grievous hit recently with the death of a number of “our neighbors.” They included Michael Demick, Christopher Baker, Theresa Williamson, Bud Ketchum and Theresa Sykes, a Town employee and sister-in-law of Town Board Member PJ Roder.[/private]