Mayor says referendum possible
By Michael Turton
Nelsonville Mayor Tom Corless has shown little enthusiasm for a merger of the village’s building department with those of the Town of Philipstown and Village of Cold Spring. At the July 18 meeting of the Nelsonville Village Board, however, he opened the door to the possibility of holding a referendum as part of Nelsonville’s next election in March 2017.
Philipstown and Cold Spring are already discussing a merger, a form of consolidation strongly encouraged by New York state. Several months ago, Cold Spring officials hired the Philipstown building department to complete inspections at the Butterfield redevelopment project. Nelsonville has participated in merger discussions but has made no decisions.
Philipstown Town Board member John Van Tassel attended the July 18 meeting and raised the topic with Corless and Deputy Mayor Thomas Robertson. Danielle Pack McCarthy, the third member of the village board, was not in attendance.
“We’re at a point now where we need to know if you guys are willing to commit” to a building department merger, Van Tassel said, adding that he has worked on aspects of the consolidation with Pack McCarthy for nearly two years. “It makes no difference to us.” He noted the town recently hired a new building inspector, Greg Wunner, and that town officials have been pleased with his work.
Corless said he has discussed the idea of a merger with Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea and the town’s previous building inspector, Kevin Donahue. “I don’t know where we are” on the issue, the mayor said. “Are our fees going to be your fees? Is it going to be a shared inspector or one employed by the town?”
Van Tassel responded that the Philipstown building department operates by collecting fees, noting that Nelsonville issued only eight building permits in 2015. “We’re not looking for any subsidy from Nelsonville,” he said. “The applicant would pay the fees for the inspector.”
“So if I needed [the services of] the building inspector I would write a check to Philipstown?” Corless asked.
“Yes, you would,” Van Tassel replied, later adding that under the arrangement he envisions Nelsonville residents having access to a building inspector five days a week, eight hours a day. Nelsonville’s inspector works only a few hours a week.
When Robertson asked what the length of an agreement might be, Van Tassel said he thought at year-end the board could decide whether to continue with the arrangement. Corless pressed for a timeframe, asking if the question could be put off until the village board decides or a referendum is held. “We’re sensitive to the needs to the village,” Robertson said.
“The time frame is whatever you are comfortable with” Van Tassel replied.
Corless commented that the legal aspects of any merger would have to be reviewed by the village attorney and asked Van Tassel to submit a brief, written proposal. “It can be just a couple paragraphs,” he said. “What are the fees? Who is responsible for what?… (Give us) something concrete.”
In other business …
- An ongoing problem with a clogged private sewer line along Pearl St. near Pine remains unresolved. Mayor Corless said that residents in the area tentatively reached an agreement to collectively pay for the repair work but the proposal “went by the wayside” for some reason. “We’re going to have to get those folks in here for a meeting” or possibly deal with the residents involved in writing, the mayor said.
- An update of the fees charged by the planning board was approved. The schedule was last revised in 1990.
- A request by the Town of Philipstown for a letter supporting its application for a consolidated funding grant was tabled pending a review by the village attorney.
- A public hearing regarding the provision of cable television in Nelsonville was tentatively scheduled for September 19 at 7:15 p.m. at the village hall.
- Thomas Robertson said he was “very pleased” with what he saw in his audit of Nelsonville’s 2015-16 budget. The deputy mayor said he feels some budget lines ought to be expanded so that residents can better understand how village funds are spent.