Highland Town Board confronts the long game

By GREGORY HATTON
Posted 9/21/21

ELDRED, NY — While New York States owes the Town of Highland grant money, additional funds are on the way.

This good news was announced at the September 14 board meeting. The LaBerge Group, …

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Highland Town Board confronts the long game

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ELDRED, NY — While New York States owes the Town of Highland grant money, additional funds are on the way.

This good news was announced at the September 14 board meeting. The LaBerge Group, the town consultants, indicated that an increase of $70,000 in grant funding would be received for the salt shed. The money, when it arrives, will reimburse the town for the additional work it did in erecting walls for the structure that shelters winter equipment and salt. New York State still owes the town over $62,000 from the original grant. Last year due to the pandemic, the state held back 20 percent of the total cost of the project, which came in at approximately $313,000.

Additionally, the constable’s office has not yet received $11,000 that had been approved. Haas said he doubted that the state has the money to fulfill outstanding grants and appeared hesitant about applying for more funds from New York or the federal government. He used the opportunity to remind all that the 2022 budget was being prepared and a public workshop would be scheduled next month.

Items of note included a report from Fred Bosch, indicating that he anticipated a delay in the return of the town’s revised zoning codes. The state is tasked with a rigorous review process before it validates the new code.

In emergency management committee business, Kaitlin Haas advised that Sullivan County has a significant COVID-19 community transmission rate. Although the Sullivan County COVID-19 dashboard indicates that the town is in the lower tier of confirmed positives, Haas warned of a concerning increase in the number deaths countywide during the past six weeks. People meeting the criteria for a third vaccine can get it locally from Walgreens and CVS.

In insurance news, Jim Gutekunst said that the municipal insurance reciprocal policy would remain unchanged until the pending sale of the old highway barn is concluded. Significant policy savings are expected. Jeff Haas interjected that the town needed to get cyber liability coverage. He said he had been assured by assessor Laurie King that the town’s data had numerous firewalls to keep hackers from accessing taxpayers’ personal information. However, Haas is convinced that the expenditure of $861.30 for $250,000 additional coverage would be a wise move. The policy savings coming from the town barn sale is expected to be adequate to cover it.

Doreen Warner, representing W Design and the Greater Barryville Chamber of Commerce, said that street mural work at the River Road cul-de-sac will start early next month. She said it would require coordination with the town’s highway department and the Yulan Fire Department. Warner was lauded for her work on the town’s website, which has garnered much praise for its ease of navigation and user-friendly access to information.

Pete Carmeci, commander of VFW Post 6427, commented favorably on the 9/11 remembrance ceremony at Heroes Park. Haas amplified Carmeci’s comments with praise for the efforts of all involved in preparation and presentation of the event.

A proposed resolution to contract for the services of an ambulance corps was included in the agenda handout. It stated that the best interests of the health, safety and welfare of the town and its residents will be served by empowering the supervisor to obtain ambulance operating authority. The town is being represented by the Pinsky Law Group in its effort to obtain a Certificate of Need transfer. While the Certificate of Need is anticipated shortly, it is unclear whether the paperwork for establishing the ambulance taxing district will be accomplished in time to be included in the town’s 2022 budget. If not, the ambulance corps, which is pursuing its own incorporation, will be partially funded through a budget line item as has been previously done.

In other business, the board will have the LaBerge Group set up an informational session to discuss the impact of marijuana law on Highland, which will begin a discussion about whether Highland wants to opt out of allowing dispensaries and smoking lounges in the town. The meeting with LaBerge has been tentatively set up for October 13. The town website will confirm the date.

As part of correspondence, the town received a letter from the proprietors of the River Market. John and Athena Lynn, owners since 2013, who wrote that they closed their market on August 29. Their letter thanked the town for its past support. The market has been sold and new owners are expected to reopen soon.

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