Budget Hearing, Snowplowing Privatization Questioned
The proposed tax hike of 39 cents per thousand of assessed valuation, never came up at the Grafton Budget Hearing Monday night, November 6. The tax hike is under the New York State tax cap. Instead, a resident of Josh Hall Pond Road questioned the proposed privatization of the Northeast sector of the town’s roads. One of her queries was, would the 30 thousand dollars budgeted for the contractor(s) be enough. Town Supervisor Ingrid Gundrum indicated early estimates were coming in below that number. She made it clear however, these were just estimates. The town would have to actually put the proposal out to bid before any contract could be signed. The same resident asked what would be the criteria for the private plow operators to be called out. She was told the same guidelines as currently employed by the town’s Highway Department. She also asked about who would provide their sand and salt, and would they be able to use town equipment to load their vehicles. Ms. Gundrum replied that sand and salt portion of the question was negotiable, but under no circumstances would the privateers be allowed to touch town equipment. She also replied the choice of which roads to privatize was hers, basing her decision on the proximity of the roads to each other, and the belief most where in the Hoosick Falls School District. Highway Superintendent Herb Hasbrouck indicated that was not really the case, as many of the roads involved actually were within the Berlin School District boundary. Mr. Hasbrouck was also asked by Councilman Eric Buckley, if he thought the privatization plan was do able. The Superintendent replied on some roads, he though so, but he had concerns about others.
The whole issue of contracting out some of the snow plowing came about, when the town board choose not to replace a highway department employee who recently resigned, indicating they believed that with some changes, such as with the snow plowing, the department could operate on four workers plus the superintendent and part timers when needed. The board was informed that night, that another member of the department has submitted his resignation, effective in two weeks. The board all agreed, that the position needed to be filled, and authorized the town to advertise for the position.
Another item of discussion was the recent vote by the Highway Department employees to join the Teamster Union. One resident asked if since two members have resigned, did they have to recognize the union. Councilman Buckley explained once the employees voted to be represented by a union, the town must negotiate with them, unless these same employees voted to decertify. Supervisor Gundrum indicated negotiations were in their infancy, that she expected it to be a lengthy process that may not be completed in 2018. The board did not increase any department wages in the proposed budget, noting they would now be subject to said negotiations.
The Town Board meets in regular session on Monday, November 13. They have indicated they plan to vote on the budget at that time.