By Buffy Calvert
The prospect of 3 Public Hearings before the November 10th Town Board Meeting drew a crowd.
HEARING #1 : OVERRIDE OF TAX LEVY. After a brief explanation that obedience to the new state law capping any increase in Town Budgets at 2% would require laying off 5 employees, Supervisor Donnelly proposed that the Town Board, by a “super majority” of 60%, vote to override the cap. A questioner asked: “How much over the cap will the proposed 2012 budget go?” Answer: We need a 7% increase.
The hearing took 3 minutes. In the meeting that followed, the Board unanimously voted to override.
HEARING # 2: TOWN OF ANDES PRELIMINARY 2012 BUDGET. After copies of the proposed budget were distributed and perused, a flurry of questions arose.
“Why was the Andes Public Library cut by $1,800?”
“Everything took a hit.”
“Why was the Town Clerk’s salary slashed from $32,000 this year to $21,000 in 2012?”
“The old Town Clerk has many years’ experience. Her replacement is brand new to the job.”
(No one raised the fact that the budget was prepared well before the election decided which candidate would hold the job.) Participants urged the Board to pay for Ms Tosi’s training and provide help during her transition. More questions were raised about inequities arising from the outgoing Clerk’s salary supplements including $9,730 for collecting rents and paying bills for the Sewer and Water Districts, not yet assigned. In response, it was pointed out that the Code Enforcement Officer took a $5,000 cut. All the elected officials volunteered to accept cuts. On the other hand, Highway Department salaries are bound by a negotiated union contract and had to be raised.
A questioner asked why the Assessor’s salary was not cut. The answer was that her salary and health package were a condition of her leaving another job to take this one on and that she got 100% on the State Assessor’s test. Likewise the Town Board has no authority to alter the Fire District budget which is adopted by the Fire Commissioners after a separate Public Hearing.
Marge Merzig has asked that she be removed from next year’s budget since she expects that all her time will be absorbed by the upgrade of the Waste Water Treatment Plant. However, she stands ready to help if needed.
The budget hearing took half an hour. During the Board Meeting it was adopted unanimously.
HEARING #3: MORATORIUM ON HEAVY INDUSTRY
The proposed Resolution begins: “WHEREAS, the Town of Andes has received requests from its citizens concerning the need to address and possibly regulate heavy industry in the Town… and concludes: “For a period of six (6) months…all heavy industrial activity, including any activity related to hydrofracturing or gas drilling within the Town is prohibited.”
Under PURPOSE, Heavy Industry is defined as “any use or activity which generates significant volumes of smoke, odors, noise, or other polluting wastes, which requires truck traffic of more than three semi-trailers a day on local roads and which uses natural water sources in excess of 1,000 gallons a day and requires site configurations and intensive monitoring which would impact local traffic [and] that are not compatible with other uses in the municipality…” It goes on to specify more examples of prohibited industries as well as those that are exempt. The latter include dairy farms, woodworking, auto repair, agriculture and sand and gravel mining.
The 6 month moratorium would be renewable for another 6 months by vote of the Board. Its purpose is to “review the Town’s land resources, current laws and existing land use regulations…” at the instigation of “many citizens” requesting such a review.
The only opposition to the Moratorium was voiced by a representative of the County Planning Board who asked the Town Board to hold off and let the County Planning Board review it first. She said they were not following the “proper legal procedure.” Marge Merzig, speaking for her husband, David Merzig, the Town Attorney, asserted that it was, in fact, entirely legal. Marty Donnelly added that the Town does not find the time-limited moratorium to be a “temporary zoning change” which would trigger prior County Planning review.
During the meeting that followed, Councilman Martin Liddle asked if bluestone quarrying and gravel mining were exempt. He was assured that they were. The Moratorium received unanimous Board approval to a smattering of applause. ~