Village Secures $220,000 To Pay Its Debts
By Jackolyn Houghton
Mayor Robert Allen said at the Hoosick Falls Village Board meeting on Tuesday, May 9 that $220,000 has been received from the NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) to help pay the Village’s bills for lawyers and engineers incurred dealing with the PFOA crisis. [private]The purpose of this money is to take some of the pressure off the Village by helping to pay its bills to the lawyers and engineers while it is negotiating a settlement with Saint-Gobain and Honeywell, but it is to be paid back once such a settlement is reached. The money is given based on an agreement that once the Village receives financial restitution from the companies responsible, it would pay back the EFC. There are no interest charges or time limit with this agreement.
Mayor Allen said, “This has given immediate relief to our residents and us. Our small village does not have vast financial resources, and I’d personally like to thank Governor Cuomo and the EFC for their assistance.”
At the meeting, Mayor Allen presented a check paying in full its debt of approximately $100,000 to the engineering firm MRB Group. Mayor Allen said after the meeting, “The money from the EFC has finally allowed us to pay our engineering firm, the MRB Group. They have done tremendous work on behalf of the Village, and it was my pleasure to personally give that check to them at our May Board Meeting.”
The Village of Hoosick Falls still has nearly $1 million in debts incurred under Mayor Borge’s term to respond to the PFOA contamination caused by Honeywell and Saint Gobain. The idea is that these bills will eventually be paid by the two companies responsible through a settlement agreement, but until an agreement is reached, the Village cannot pay its bills. The largest of these bills is owed to its former law firm, Fitzgerald Morris Baker Firth of Glens Falls. This firm negotiated a settlement agreement with the two companies which failed to win support from the Village Board or the public.
The Village has been seeking to borrow funds to pay this debt, as well as losses in the water department.
The options are a Deficiency note, which can’t be used for a sum as large as needed, or a Budget Note, which could cover the immediate need, but is still short term borrowing, so it doesn’t really solve the cash crisis. Under a provision called “Home Rule,” the State Legislature can authorize a one-time borrowing of funds for a repayment period of up to 10 years through an act of the Legislature. Assemblyman McLaughlin has introduced such a bill in the Assembly and Senator Marchione introduced the bill in the Senate. It has been approved in committee and will now head to the Senate and House floors for approval. Allen encourages the community to go online at the Village of Hoosick Falls and show local support for the bill.
Hiring A New Attorney
Mayor Allen said the deadline for applications for a new attorney was May 8 and that there are some on his desk that he and the Trustees will be reviewing. The Village will soon begin interviewing some of the candidates.
Michael Hickey, who brought the PFOA problem to the attention of the Village said he would like the Village to hire attorney David Engel as its new environmental attorney. He said “he knows PFOA and he knows the Village.” Hickey continued, “One thing he said to me early on that has stuck with me was that when he got into law he wanted to change the world.” Hickey said Engel found that most of his law practice didn’t live up to his youthful goals, but he sees Hoosick Falls as a chance to make a positive change through his work.
Mayor Allen said that Justin Deming of the Department of Health has let him know that Honeywell’s contractors have finished the first phase of testing for VOCs in the Lower John Street neighborhood. Nineteen houses were tested. Six of those homes did not warrant further action, three vacant homes will need re-testing when they become occupied, one did not fit the criteria of contamination, and nine will need some form of action. Homes that have VOCs entering the basements from the soil are usually remediated with a ventilation device that sucks air from the soil and exhausts it above the roof. The nine homes that need action will be re-tested during the heating season. As a short-term plan Deming stated that basements would need to be sealed and that the Village would work with the Department of Health to form a long-term plan.
Liquor License For HKC
Doctor Andrew Cowder, who is the president of the Hoosick Kitchen Catering (HKC) Board, asked for approval for a permanent limited beer/wine license. Last month, Hoosick Kitchen Catering’s request was tabled because the Board wanted further information and answers to some additional questions. Cowder said this type of license would help HKC with sustainability by allowing less money to be spent on one-time use licenses. Trustee Brian Bushner, who led the opposition to the license last month, said he didn’t think it wise to grant a liquor license to a business in the Armory when youth programs are currently housed there. Cowder said they currently apply for one-time use licenses, which have been approved in the past. He said that HKC has conducted and researched all areas pertaining to the license. Rick Tinkham mentioned that the State has a series of checklists which HKC has been subjected to and the State has no reservations. He only asks that the Village Board agree to the application so that they can submit it to the State liquor authority. Mayor Allen stated that he had no reservations. Trustee Ryan made a motion to approve the license, which passed with only Trustee Bushner opposing it.
Group Refurbishing Former Youth Center Seeks Help
Butch Eastman presented on behalf of the Town of Hoosick Community Center. He asked the Board for financial support, mentioning that in order for the building to be safe the chimney and parts of the roof would need to be repaired. Scott McCart mentioned that group would be putting together a tag sale during the town-wide tag sale on May 27, asking the community for support by bringing items to sell. Trustee O’Malley said that after expenses are paid, any proceeds from the July 22 event, Blues for Breakfast, will be donated. Anyone wishing to support the Town of Hoosick Community Center should contact Penny Acree.
Gail Smith spoke on behalf of the Voice for Vets, repeating the presentation she gave at the Town of Hoosick Board meeting the night before. The group is looking for community members to adopt the remaining 70 soldiers to be honored at Liberty Memorial Park at Maple Grove Cemetery in time for a dedication ceremony on August 12. Smith said the Hoosick Historical Society has received a generous donation which will be used to construct a memorial in the front of the Maple Grove Cemetery. She said thirty veterans had already been adopted and those crosses have been purchased. The cost to adopt a veteran is $200.
Mayor Allen recognized Stewart McCune for obtaining the Eagle Scout Award, the highest award bestowed upon Boy Scouts. In addition, Anna Brewer and Sarah Sigot were also recognized for their outstanding achievements in Girl Scouts. Both girls created a solution to an issue in the community. Sigot created a Backpack Program at Hoosick Falls Central that enable students who did not have food over the weekend to take home a backpack filled with nutritious foods. Anna Brewer created a fitness program using signs on the Greenway path with stations illustrating workout routines.
Hoosick Falls Police Chief Robert Ashe requested that the Board approve the resignation of Brian Roderick who has left the department to work with the Rensselaer County Sheriff’s Department. He said they have reviewed applications and recommend Nick Swanson as a part-time employee to replace Roderick. Ashe said that Swanson would be a perfect replacement as his schedule coincides nicely with part-time employment, and he asked the Board to approve the hire, which they did.
Codes Enforcement Report
Mark Surdam said he has opened more cases than he has closed – one court case was dropped and two more were added. Also, there was one red tag that was dropped and additional red tags added.
Economic Development coordinator Brighid Buzzell said she has reviewed the Hoosick Rising page, and will be customizing social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. She requests access to Hoosick.org to create a “one stop shop” and would like a meeting scheduled to discuss a possible rebranding for the Village. Buzzell said once Hoosick.org is set she can begin to recruit for new business. She also said she has spoken with Matt Harrington of Bennington County Chamber of Commerce to create a Mixer for both communities to attend.
Trustee Bob Ryan reported the resignation of George Mentiply from the Village Highway Department and asked for a motion to advertise to fill the position, which was approved.
Trustee Ben Patten reported that there are electrical issues at the water plant and that Jim Hurlbert and Josh Case are in attendance to provide details. Hurlbert said that condensation is getting behind the conduit and causing a problem with connections. Patten said these issues are not related to the GAC.
Hurlburt stressed the need for prompt correction. He said he has a quote of $7,459 from Shane Hathaway and $2,876.63 from General Controls, totaling $10,365.63. Hurlbert said that there is enough money in the water plant’s budget to cover this cost so no additional funds are needed. He requested the Board’s approval on these quotes, which was given.
In Other News:
• Mayor Allen said he would like to hire a records assistant who would be responsible for digitizing the Village’s records. He is discussing with Town Supervisor Mark Surdam the possibility of having the Town and Village hire someone to do this kind of work for both.
• Bob Ryan proposed a salary increase for Ken Holbrook, Acting Wastewater Treatment Plant Supervisor. His salary is currently $39,413 and would increase to $42,200 with an additional increase to $45,000 once his certification is complete. The Board also proposed increasing the Assistant Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator salary. Currently it is $35,850, with a raise it’ll increase to $38,350 and after certification it will increase to $40,865. A motion was made and passed to increase these salaries.
• The Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation at Hoosick Falls is in the process of affiliating with Southwestern Vermont Medical Center/Dartmouth Hitchcock and is looking for the Village’s consent on the affiliation. Mayor Allen will meet with Greg Laurin, President of the Board to discuss details further. This topic has been tabled until the June meeting.
• Ric DiDonato discussed the Local Waterfront Revitalization planning grant and said that Brighid Buzzell, Kevin O’Malley and Paula Kamperman reviewed three proposals and recommended Barton & Loguidice as the best proposal. The Board agreed to hire that firm to carry out the work.
• Village Clerk Ann Bornt requested that a penalty of $1,000 a month be assessed to homeowners who have not had a water meter installed in their homes. Currently there are thirteen homes that are without a meter. A motion to that effect was approved.
• The Wood Memorial Road Race sponsored by the Lions Club will be on Saturday May 20, and the town wide tag sale is set for May 27. The American Legion is looking for assistance is putting together the Memorial Day parade. Anyone who has a float is encouraged to register. The Memorial Day parade is set for May 29. [/private]