AT A REGULAR MEETING OF THE TOWN BOARD OF THE TOWN OF NISKAYUNA DULY CALLED AND HELD ON THE 29TH DAY OF JANUARY, 2008 AT THE NISKAYUNA TOWN BOARD ROOM, ONE NISKAYUNA CIRCLE, NISKAYUNA, NEW YORK, THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS WERE PRESENT:
JULIE M. O’DONNELL, COUNCILWOMAN
MARIE P. FREUND, COUNCILWOMAN
DIANE P. O’DONNELL, COUNCILWOMAN
LIZ ORZEL KASPER, COUNCILWOMAN
JOE LANDRY, SUPERVIOSR
Others present: Helen Kopke, Town Clerk; Eric Dickson, Town Attorney; Marion Rhodes, Receiver of Taxes; Frank Gavin, Superintendent of Highways; Kathy Matern, Planning Technician; Paul Sebesta Comptroller; Lew Moskowitz, Chief of Police.
Supervisor Landry honored Scout Colin Selin who has achieved the status of Eagle Scout.
PRIVILEGE OF THE FLOOR
XXXXXXXX Rosehill Blvd, requested help from the Board regarding problems with land contour and the flow of water on certain properties in his neighborhood He inquired about future action regarding 1) pollution from wood burning fireplaces used to heat homes; 2) getting St. James Square fully occupied and; 3) what the Town would be doing about “going green.”
He complained about an open lot on Berkeley Avenue where the grass was 2’ high before it was cut and the cuttings were left on the property. He is also concerned about power outages which affect 12 houses on Rosehill and Hedgewood.
XXXXXXXX Fairlawn Parkway, stated that she appeared before the Board last October with petitions from residents regarding their concern about taxes and reassessment. They asked the Board to be proactive in looking at increased Town and School taxes.
She asked if 1) the Town Attorney’s hired at the Organization Meeting had been hired in the past, what the cost is and what is the need for so many attorneys; 2) why we have a Deputy Supervisor, have we had one in the past, what is the cost, and what is the rationale. 3) There was an additional person hired in the Tax office and she asked what the cost is and what the savings is using First Niagara. 4) She observed changes in trash collection which is a service being taken away. 5) $15,000 was budgeted to resurface the tennis courts at Avon Crest Park and they questioned the necessity of doing this. 6) They wondered if the Town Board has a 3-5 year plan in place to look at controlling taxes in the Town, working with the school district to control taxes and a plan that might include a reduction for the tax
They consider the fire and police departments to be essential but they do not want to get into a crisis situation where we are cutting budgets and we are affecting services of safety. She asked the Board to get back to her and she will share the information with her committee members.
XXXXXXXX Lori Drive, referencing Lori Drive, feels that in the past, traffic and safety concerns have not been adequately addressed, not only with the residents in the 78 unit planned subdivision but also with commuters from Colonie and including adjoining streets of new developments off Lishakilll. He is aware that connectivity of neighborhoods is a recognized Town policy; and contends that such policy should be balanced and tempered with the reality of the increased traffic congestion on their narrow street.
XXXXXXXX, Millington Road, is concerned that the number of Town Board meetings was cut in half to one meeting per month. Because residents can talk at Privilege of the Floor, by eliminating one meeting per month they have closed the government a little bit more to the people. He is not sure what justification they would use for doing this and would appreciate the Board reconsidering their schedule.
XXXXXXX, 86 Lori Drive, stated that the Board’s mission is the responsibility to address all the issues facing our community in an open and reasoned manner. He hoped that the Board holds highest on its agenda the importance of seeking input from its citizens who make up the community. With the new business that the Board will face they will have old issues that have not been fully resolved such as the development of a neighborhood adjacent to Lori Meadows.
With the recent decision of the Appellate Division one of the legal issues has been decided but what will be the impact on the quality of life on the 60 or 70 families who reside in Lori Meadows and Lishakill near the development? He requested that the Board refocus on the issues involving the potential connector street between Lori Drive and the future development. It is his belief that if some creative solution is not applied Lori Drive will become a very busy thoroughfare.
XXXXXXXXXXX Sheridan Avenue, Albany, gave the perspective of people who visit Niskayuna and appreciate natural and historic aesthetics such as the Stanford Mansion.
XXXXXXXX Lori Drive, stated that Lori Drive has been an on-going issue for four years and the Lori Meadows Neighborhood Association is not against development. Mr. Paulson and Ms.Cerone has been more than fair during discussions, their concern is with the connector between the project and the existing areas. The County listened and came up with the right decision but they ended up in court. He is hopeful that the Town Board will listen to the concerns of the citizens and developer.
XXXXXX, Troy Road, is happy to read that the Board will withdraw the appeal for the Stanford Home. She does not want to see the home dismembered.
She felt it would be a burden to the Board to not answer short questions from the public at the regular meetings as they will be inundated with lots of work answering residents. She is not happy with the 6:30 meeting time as it is difficult for some getting out of work. She wondered if the Town had appointed a Tree Committee and Economic Development Committee and thinks these are important.
XXXXXXX Pawtucket Road, felt that the 6:30 meeting time would be difficult and she is troubled that the Supervisor will not be answering questions. She felt the previously proposed budget was fair and treated the staff appropriately and thought it was a concern if they don’t give people fair compensation for their work, especially if they are supervisors and those below them are getting a raise because of the union contract. She thinks the Supervisor is making the government less open, not more so.
She didn’t agree with the resolution to withdraw the Town’s appeal for Ingersoll. Judge Sise’s interpretation was novel and it will cause problems for other applications in Town because we don’t know what the limits are. The Town should pursue the appeal regardless of what they think of the project.
XXXXXXXXXXX Albany Street, lives across the street from the Ingersoll Home and he was glad to see that the Board will drop the appeal. He thinks that this is a beautiful piece of property and there is historic significance to the home.
XXXXXXXXXXX Brookshire Drive, stated that she thinks resident’s questions should be answered by the Board. She questioned the limiting of regular and agenda meetings as she thinks the Supervisor has compensated his County job with being a full time Supervisor and she resents that we are second class citizens. The 6:30 starting time is fine with her, but there are people who are inconvenienced. She hoped the Board would reconsider going back to two meetings per month and returning to the 7 p.m. schedule.
XXXXXXXXXX Lori Drive, stated that Lori Drive is a quite and peaceful neighborhood without many cars on the street and cut-through would change this very dramatically.
XXXXXXXXXXXXX1 Troy Road, represented the Friends of Stanford Home and she was delighted that more attention was going to be given to preservation issues particularly concerning the Stanford/Ingersoll area. She felt there has been a lot of secrecy in the decision making of some of our Boards. She is pleased that the Town will not be in court to argue against preservation.
She discovered that on September 18, 2006 there was an IDA public hearing attended by Supervisor Smith and three IDA members which ran from 4:05 to 4:10 p.m. with no public comment. A councilperson she asked indicated they were unaware of this public hearing and she felt this was deceptive.
She is looking for the day when they know what is going on, things are discussed in public and executive meetings are not held that no one knows about. She is pleased that tonight we may start to go forward in a positive way to preserve something that we will be proud of. She submitted petitions about the appeal which are not all from Niskayuna because the Ingersoll has never been owned by the Town but is a broadly respected and admired site.
XXXXXXXXXXX Lori Drive, would rather not see the Lori Drive issue in the courts. Just because it has been heard twice does not mean that the right decision has been made. Courts do make mistakes.
XXXXXXXXX, Schenectady, spoke in support of the preservation of the Stanford Home.
XXXXXXXXX Downing Street, stated that the Town, County, School District, and the Safe Routes Committee are working together to apply for a grant through Safe Routes to School to work on projects in Niskayuna. He supports the withdrawal of the appeal by the Town for Ingersoll.
He recalled that as part of the discussion about the new Ingersoll on Consaul Road, there was going to be a multi-use path across the front of the property. Currently, it is a sidewalk which is right on the edge of the ditch which is very steep and it only goes half way across the property. He would hope that prior to occupancy; the Town would look at this issue and deal with it. In the long run, because Consaul is a place we will want to put in a multi-use path to get to shopping, it will come out of our tax payer pockets if we don’t deal with it now.
XXXXXXXX, Millington Road, agrees that the 6:30 p.m. start time for the meetings is difficult for commuters from Albany. He doesn’t understand why the Supervisor will not answer questions and he hoped he would reconsider. He is also in favor of allowing residents to speak more than once per meeting as they only have one opportunity per month to speak to the Board.
XXXXXXXX Pawtucket Avenue, corrected a misstatement in that the plan approved by the Town Board for the current Ingersoll site does not include tearing down
the Ingersoll Home. It is to be kept it in place and to put several buildings around it. The developer worked with the Town to leave it in place and to leave enough land around it so that at some point it could be subdivided if someone wanted to buy it for historical preservation.
When no other members of the public wished to speak, Supervisor Landry closed Privilege of the Floor. He thanked residents for their comments and stated the Board will take them under consideration. The Board appreciates their concerns and they will re-evaluate them.
The following resolutions were approved with a vote of five ayes unless otherwise indicated.
Resolution 2008-16, commended Colin Selin for accomplishing the requirements for Eagle Scout.
Resolution 2008-17, calls for a public hearing February 26, 2008 at 6:30 p.m. to consider amendment of the Vehicle and Traffic Code to provide for the installation of traffic control signs on Village Road at Meadow lane and at Townsend Road at Meadow Lane and to reduce a speed limit control sign on a portion of Rosendale Road.
Resolution 2008-18 calls for a public hearing on February 26 at 6:30 p.m. to amend the Vehicle & Traffic Code to provide for alternate parking on Palmer Avenue from Grand Boulevard to the town line.
Resolution 2008-19 calls for a public hearing February 26 at 6:30 p.m. to amend the Code Chapter 69-2 for Specifications for Collection Containers. Councilwoman O’Donnell clarified that the Board is not contemplating a reduction of service, but is contemplating the change in the use of the containers going from cans to compostable bags. There have been an increasing number of cans and they have concerns about the contents and the weight of the cans in terms of injuries to employees.
Resolution 2008-20 employs additional persons in the Recreation Program. Councilwoman McDonnell noted that this does not hire new employees, but we are required to reinstate employees yearly who are used on an as-needed basis.
Resolution 2008-21 authorizes the purchase of a replacement cab for a 1994 dump truck for the Highway Department from Casey’s Truck Salvage World at a cost not to exceed $4,500.
Resolution 2008-22 authorizes the purchase of an aerator for the Blatnick Park Pond from Grassland Equipment at a cost not to exceed $5,500.
Resolution 2008-23 authorizes the purchase of wire on state contract for the Highway Garage and Mechanic’s Building from Graybar, at a cost not to exceed $19,000.
Resolution 2008-24 authorizes the purchase of a GPS mapping system and software for the Highway Department from Waypoint Technology Group, at a cost not to exceed $6,560.
Resolution 2008-25 renews a contract for drug and alcohol testing from Safe Systems Corporation, for the period March 1, 2008 to March 1, 2009.
Resolution 2008-26 authorizes budgetary modifications in the 2008 Water & Sewer budgets.
Resolution 2008-27 retains professional engineering services on an as-needed basis for 2008.
Resolution 2008-28 adopts the 2008 salary schedule. The resolution was approved with a three ayes with Councilwoman Freund and Councilwoman O’Donnell voting no.
Councilwoman McDonnell stated that it important to note that this is a different salary schedule than what was proposed with the 2008 budget. This schedule provides all non-presented employees with a 2% salary increase for the year. The original calculation was a 2% increase for the first half of the year, then an additional 2% for the second half of the year. She values and appreciates the services that all of our Town employees provide and she is pleased that they can all receive an increase this year, however, the residents have had very significant tax increases in the past couple of years. The national and state outlook is not promising; many of our neighboring towns are freezing expenditures, having hiring freezes and cutting services. She hopes that
Niskayuna is not going to be in a position to do that. This schedule will save the Town about $24,000 in the 2008 budget and for this reason she is supporting this resolution.
Councilwoman O’Donnell noted that the increase is not included for elected officials or for the appointed part time attorney positions. This is not a large group of non-represented employees and they all perform a very valuable service and resource for the Town. They are department heads, supervisors, crew leaders, dispatchers and support staff critical to Town operations and services to our residents. If we adopt this salary schedule some of the crew leaders will be making less than those they supervise this summer. We have had a great deal of trouble recruiting and retaining dispatchers. We just got that under control and she fears that if we adopt this salary schedule we start to experience vacancies again. She recognizes our need to save
money but she doesn’t think that this is the place we should do it. She could favor a 3% across the board instead of a 2% + 2% but she feels that these employees deserve an increase of greater than 2% this year.
Councilwoman Freund stated that she feels the Town is run by quality people and that they should be compensated fairly. She is in favor of maintaining this excellence by giving department heads, crew leaders, dispatchers and secretaries, a 3% raise and she would like to have that raise given with 2% now and 2% mid year.
She feels that the Town would not be acting responsibly if we run the risk of damaging employee morale, having a supervising crew leader making less money than his workforce, or possibly losing dispatchers when we are not able to provide a competitive salary.
Councilwoman Kasper thinks it is commendable what people do in Town and no person has worked less than they are getting and no person should be discriminated against. When presented with the 2008 budget, she did not realize that it was a 2% and 2%; she thought it was a 3% across the board. She feels dispatchers have a valid point when they are not sent home when the air conditioning goes and we have to look at that. Crew leaders are very valuable and we have to look at other salary schedules also. It bothers her that the only thing that they could touch in saving money was the salary schedule and this group is unfortunately not represented. It behooves the Board to be diligent with their union contracts and everything else in Town. We need
to tighten the belt and this was the place. None of the elected officials received a raise. She makes $1,000 yearly as Deputy Supervisor. She promised the tax payers to look for any areas she cut in the budget. It won’t be the only place we cut as there will be a lot of other cuts to save money. The salary schedule is no reflection of her feelings about dispatchers, secretaries, and crew leaders, it is hard times.
Supervisor Landry started that the salary schedule includes a 2% across the board increase for all non-represented employees. The effected Town employees will still receive their increments and longevity pay. The Board appreciates the hard work and dedication of all the Town employees and they wish they could provide larger increases at this time. However, with almost double digit tax increases in the last two years, the taxpayers are demanding that we make the hard decisions and exercise some fiscal restraint. This is the first step in that direction. Last years budget called for a 4% across the board increase for all non-represented employees. We believe that a 2% increase is a good compromise as well as a fiscally responsible decision.
We will also be reviewing all the departments with an eye towards budget savings throughout the year, so this is just a start.
Resolution 2008-29 appoints Robert Sweeney, as an Ad Hoc member of the Planning Board until December 31, 2009.
Resolution 2008-30 appoints Michael Struys as a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals until December 31, 2014.
Resolution 2008-31 directs the Town Attorney to withdraw a certain appeal and take whatever action is necessary to withdraw the appeal submitted on the Town’s behalf in the matter of the Stanford Home. The resolution was approved with a vote of three ayes with Councilwoman Freund and Councilwoman O’Donnell abstaining.
Councilwoman Kasper was pleased and felt strong about this issue and it is something we have spent many hours on. Not doing the complete EIS was criminal and it should have been done. We have done it on other projects and there was no reason why this one was not done. She was upset with the Special Use Permit was issued to the Consaul Road project because she thought it was too large and had such an impact on the area. It should have been looked at very closely. One of the first steps is doing a complete EIS and the Courts upheld it should be done.
Councilwoman McDonnell is very happy to support this resolution. Many residents in Niskayuna have expressed concerns about this proposal ranging from preserving the green space to preserving the historic Stanford Home or just concerned with the process by which the project was approved without an EIS. It is important for the Board to send a message to the Court and residents that we want an EIS and we want the chance to examine all the potential uses for this property. She thinks the project has been before the Town for well over a year. The prior Town Board held a meeting as recently as December to vote on this issue. It is important that we act now to insure that the Town is not spending taxpayer money on this appeal and that the Town is not required
to appear in court next month to offer oral arguments. Time is of the essence and she supports this resolution.
Councilwoman Freund stated she felt that all of our Town Board members are in favor of open government and so she does not understand why the entire Town Board was not given the opportunity to discuss this resoluti8on with the benefit of legal council.
The exchange of opinions and facts from all Board members would have allowed her to have a better understanding of Judge Size’s decision resulting in an informed vote on this resolution.
The opportunity to discuss how this withdrawal would benefit all the residents of the Town was not offered to me and, therefore, in fairness to all residents, she must respectfully abstain.
Councilwoman O’Donnell stated she learned about this resolution to withdraw the appeal for the first time late Friday afternoon. While she has heard the opinions of many of the other Town Board members she had no prior knowledge of this resolution. She requested that the resolution not be offered tonight and that a meeting be scheduled and announced to discuss it among the full Board with the Town Attorney. She also requested that an additional agenda meeting at least be added each month to our current schedule to insure that the full Town Board has adequate time for discussion and to be informed of resolutions in the future. The previous Town Board was made aware of the judge’s decision and we were advised that the appeal was a normal part of the legal
process and that no vote on it was required. If there is a chance that the previous Town Board acted inappropriately by not voting on the appeal or becoming part of the appeal discussion by this Town Board and the Town Attorney is critical so we can take the appropriate action which may or may not be the withdrawal of the appeal, she does not know. She doesn’t have enough information. She needs to have adequate discussions; she needs to have sufficient information -- everything everyone else has seen and legal advice regarding this action specifically and in the future in order to make well informed decisions as a Town Board member. In the absence of these things she cannot cast a yes or no vote and must vote to abstain.
Councilwoman Kasper explained her vote by stating that discussion could have taken place but not everybody was willing and she voted yes.
Supervisor Landry stated he would be pleased to vote in favor of this resolution which directs our Town Attorney to take whatever is necessary to withdraw the appeal brought by the Town instituted by the Friends of Stanford Home. It is his opinion in a project of this nature that a full EIS should have been ordered by the Town Board as lead agency. Unfortunately, this was not done and the actions of the Town Board were challenged and thus far challenged successfully. The State Environmental Quality Review Act charges the lead agency with the responsibility of assessing the proposed action and determining if it has a significant effect on the environment. If the action might have the potential for at lest one significant adverse environmental impact an EIS
should be prepared. He believes that any project of this magnitude will have the potential for at least one significant adverse environmental impact and he is not alone in his beliefs. It is his understanding that the Planning Board and the Conservation Advisory Council also thought that this project may have the potential for at least one significant adverse environmental impact since they recommended that a full EIS be prepared. At that point, it is the professional engineers who are charged with making the proper assessments, identifying and involving the proper stake holders, and providing a full environment review of the project. This was not done and he disagrees with the process that was used.
The passage of today’s resolution is an important step for this Town Board which shows that this Board is committed to enact the promises that it made. It shows that there are new people willing to listen to all residents of the Town and it is never too late to act on something that you believe. It lets the people know that we will be looking at other prior decisions in a different light and we may reach very different resolutions.
At this time Councilwoman Kasper made a motion to go into Executive Session to discuss labor negotiations which was unanimously approved by the Board.
There being no further business to come before the Board, Supervisor Landry adjourned the meeting.
Helen Kopke, Town Clerk