Highland meeting portends change

By GREGORY HATTON
Posted 1/20/21

ELDRED, NY— The January 12 Highland Town Board meeting commenced as it had countless times before: with a pro forma request that, “All rise for the Pledge.” Meetings have been …

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Highland meeting portends change

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ELDRED, NY— The January 12 Highland Town Board meeting commenced as it had countless times before: with a pro forma request that, “All rise for the Pledge.” Meetings have been sparsely attended since March. This night’s quorum included the elected members, a constable, the town lawyer, the highway superintendent, the veteran’s organization representative and this writer. 

Supervisor Jeff Haas waited a moment before adding, “Our thoughts are with the young men and women in uniform, who are assembling at the Capitol to defend our democracy.” No papers rustled, no attention waivered as all eyes focused on the flag at the end of the hall. “I pledge allegiance to the flag...” began in unison; the cadence and tone of those oft-repeated words held the chorus together. As the phrase “with liberty and justice for all” ended, no eyes met, no comments followed. It may have been that Joseph Haas was on everybody’s mind: Haas’s son had recently returned from National Guard basic training only to be immediately called up to active duty.

The town’s business proceeds each month with an agenda that begins with a roll call before moving to approve the town clerk’s minutes and the reading of correspondences. This week included a moment of silence for longtime resident Debra Mohan, who passed away earlier this month. 

After town clerk Doreen Hanson and highway supervisor Tom Ebers completed their reports, Haas revealed that he had a phone call from one of the Upper Delaware’s most significant business owners, Dave Jones. Kittatinny Canoes and its related businesses extend from Dingman’s Ferry, PA to Barryville, NY, making it a major player in the area’s economy.

“Dave has sold the whole operation to a consortium of people [basically one family] that own and operate the Jellystone Resorts around the country. They plan to upgrade the operation and would like to be a good neighbor to us in the Town of Highland. They are considering a year-round operation and will continue to employ our local people. Dave said they will come to one of our meetings and present themselves. [Dave is] 66 years old and decided it’s time for him to retire. I wished him well and thanked him for sharing the information with me.” Read more on page 1.

Youth and park development committee member James Hanson announced that the Sullivan County Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs would be holding an ice fishing derby for children on Saturday, January 23 beginning at 9 a.m. at Crystal Lake in Bethel, NY. “Everybody gets a prize, but winners will be chosen for the largest fish of every species.”

Board member Fred Bosch reported on the ongoing update of the town codes. “A copy of the [proposed] new code is available at the clerk’s office and will eventually be put up on the town website. The changes are quite extensive, so that will take a while. We have not yet set a date for the public hearing,” he said.

Hanson explained further: “The planning board looks at it first, then comes back to us with their recommendations. I have sent a copy to the Upper Delaware Council as well as the county. Perhaps we can set up a public hearing next month.” Haas commented that he’s looking forward to swift approval because the town’s legal advisors have already vetted the document.

Board member Kaitlin Haas reported on emergency management: “We are working on our emergency response plan update.” A key feature requires submission to unions for their review and comment by Thursday, February 4. She also informed the board that New York Department of Health (DOH) has lowered the age for vaccinations to 65. “Since the local hospitals haven’t received their allotments, scheduling cannot begin.” A link on the Sullivan County website leads to a DOH application for vaccination. Haas added that he will be having a teleconference with all 15 supervisors and mayors of the county in an effort to help coordinate the distribution of the vaccine.

The town has received some reimbursement towards the $313,000 New York State Energy Research and Development Authority grant that was used to fund the new salt shed. “We got a check for $252,000,” said board member Jim Gutekunst. Haas reminded all that, “Gov. Cuomo cut everybody’s allotment down by 25 percent. Hopefully, we will get the remainder to make that grant whole. The salt shed is indeed being used and will serve our town well for many, many years.” Ebers echoed his satisfaction by revealing that the new shed is holding nearly two winters’ worth of salt.

New hires were approved: Terri Robertson, Monica McGill and Alice Foster will share the position of clerk to the code/building inspector. It is anticipated that this solution will provide “total” coverage adequate to meet the needs of the code enforcement and building inspector’s office. James Hanson was appointed as a part-time code enforcement officer. Dave Preston will become a part-time building inspector. Susan Hoffman was approved as the deputy town clerk.

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