Merry Christmas

I must admit I am not very politicaly correct because I always make a point not to say “Happy Holidays”. In fact, if someone says “Happy Holidays” to me, I answer back “Merry Christmas”. So, have a very Merry Christmas!

Hartford’s Economic Development

On the town’s website Homepage is a Public Notice soliciting people to apply for appointment to the soon to be created Hartford Economic Corporation (or Local Development Corp).

The type of people we are soliciting are those with backgrounds, experience and knowledge in the business world. If you are a House Husband that is tired of baking cookies and you want to volunteer and contribute to your town, this might not be for you, unless you were a financial guru in your past life. This board will be a non-compensated board (no pay) and may have 5, 7, or more members depending on how much luck we have getting responses.

In order to promote the right type of growth and bring desirable businesses to the town, we need to be proactive in going out and finding these opportunities. Sitting back and waiting for them to arrive has not worked so hot for us so far. With this economy it is double wishful thinking that businesses will come on their own.

You may note that members of the Hartford Planning board are excluded from being members of the EDC Board. I have been asked a few times why this is since they are sort of related. My best answer explaining why is in this comparison; Imagine that there is a bridge into town and we are trying to woo new businesses to cross over that bridge and enter/settle in Hartford. The EDC is the group that would be standing on our side of the bridge woo’ing them to cross. The Hartford Planning Board would be the Troll that lives under the bridge. 

Not to besmirch the Planning Board as that really is their function. They require site plan reviews and other certain criteria and to ask a person to be a member of both boards and to donn completely different hats is asking too much in my opinion. You simply cannot be both good cop and bad cop. That is the system of checks and balances and is needed.

It is still unknown if we should create an EDC or a LDC. It all depends on the subtle difference between the two and what would best fit to accomplish the goals.  I’d like to first have this EDC Board appointed by the Town Board and then figure it out with members of the EDC Board doing homework, meeting with Wash. Co. LDC and then advising the Town what direction we should take. Then we create the entity that best fits Hartford.

For year 1 there is $10,500 in the budget to create and operate the EDC. About $8,000 will be needed for the legal paperwork end and then the remainder $2,500 will be for operating expenses. Then after that it might take about $2,000 per year for operations?

Even though the funding for the EDC comes from the Town and the members of the EDC Board are appointed by the Town Board, the EDC will be an autonomous unit independent of the political whims of the Town Gov’t. This is because the EDC is Incorporated.

Hartford’s EDC will not be the type to lend money. It simply will not have enough to do this on Town Funding alone. But rather it will be the type that may administer pass thru grant money for start up businesses, etc.  Many times, in order for a business to qualify for this funding, an EDC or similar is needed to administer the money.

Does Washington County have an LDC that could do this? Yes they do but they are focused on the county as a whole and Hartford’s EDC will be focused only on Hartford. The best way to affect our local employment, development, and tax base is to do it ourselves if possible.



In the recent past, I read the bylaws of the Hartford Youth Commission and noted that it states that all positions on that board that have a term about to expire needs to have that position publicly posted, even if the incumbent wishes to be re-appointed.

I thought that was a great idea and I want to bring it into all Town appointed positions for the purpose of transparency.

Even if the person who’s term is about to expire is the greatest thing since sliced bread, and there is no desire to appoint someone different, the position should still be publicly noticed. If for no other reason than to allow the public to gain the knowledge that an appointment is going on. This is transparency and we should not be afraid to let the public know what the heck is going on. This avoids any suspicion of “good old boy club” or closed society.

There are some expirations coming up on 12/31/10 for positions on various committees. At last Tuesday’s Town Board meeting I informed the public of this intent of mine and was asked by a man in the audience if this also covers singular positions that are subject to annual appointment by the Town Board or Supervisor. I did not think of that beforehand because I was thinking along the lines of committees but the question was a legitimate one and my answer was “well.. yes, why not”,  what is good for the Goose is good for the Gander.

Here is the list of what positions will expire on 12/31/10, even if the person wishes to “re-up”. Noted after each line is who appoints them;

Youth Commission Board3 year term: Krissy Stewart (Town  Board) 

Planning Board 7 year term: Philip Gibson (Town Board) 

Planning Board Chairman 1 year: Mike Sweezey (Town Board)   

Comprehensive Committee 3 yr term: Mike Sweezey, George Stokem, Chrys Nestle  (Town Board)   

Ad-Hoc Landfill Committee 1 yr term: Laura Chadwick, Thomas Abraham, George Stokem, Chris Lavin, John Holmes (Town Board)     

Court Clerk 1 yr term: Stephany Euber (Town Board/Justice)   

Enforcement Officer 1 yr term: Mark Miller (Town Board)      

Dog Control Officer 1 yr term: Ed Holland (Town Board)     

Attorney for the Town 1 yr term: Fitzgerald Morris Baker Firth PC  (Town Board)

Historian 1 yr term: Mike Armstrong (Supervisor)   

Supervisor’s Clerk / Budget Officer 1 yr term: Joel Carpenter, CPA (Supervisor)

2011 Budget Letter


Dear Hartford Taxpayer,

To my knowledge, this is the first time a Budget Letter has been sent out to Hartfords’ Taxpayers explaining the Town Budget. I feel that it is important to keep our citizens informed of their local government’s actions, especially how we are spending your hard earned money.

This year’s Supervisor’s Budget, which is my first as Supervisor will see a significant 15% decrease in the Town of Hartford Tax Levy. The Townwide tax levy (amount to be raised thru taxes) for 2011 will be about $135,000 less than last year.

This is a time of economic hardship. This recession we are in is the worst since the Great Depression. There are some reports that the recession is over but the next day there will be a report that it is back on. One thing that I do know is that employment is a lagging indicator. Jobs are the first things to be lost and the last things to come back. Therefore the time for tax relief is now, plus I think I can sustain this relief for the next three years.

When you receive your Wash. Co. Town and County Tax Bill in the mail in January, please study it carefully and itemize the bill separating “Town” from “County”. The tax levy for “Townwide Tax” has been reduced by about 15% and the tax levy for “Hartford Fire” has been reduced by about 0.5%. No two properties are alike but generally most tax payers should notice a significant decrease in their Town tax. Of course, if you recently added a large addition to your house or did something that really increases the assessed value of your property you may see an increase, but those persons should be few and far between.

This tax relief is possible because of three main reasons;

1) The Town Highway Dept., which takes the lion’s share of the town budget is running more efficiently. Superintendent Brown is using innovative ways to cut spending and stretch the tax payers’ dollars.

2) There are two new three year contracts that have been negotiated with both the Hartford Volunteer Fire Company and Hartford Highway Department Teamsters Union. Both contracts are rather conservative. Both contracts see about a 3% increase over a 3 year period. This is not 3% a year, but rather 3% over the 3 year life of the contracts. The Fire Company is made up of taxpayers too and they were real team players in realizing that a conservative contract is in the best interest of Hartfords’ taxpayers.

3) The Town’s Unappropriated Fund Balance is much larger than I think it needs to be. After careful analysis of the Balance and consultations with the NYS Comptrollers Office, Washington County Treasurer and the NY Associations of Towns, I determined that the Town of Hartford should have an Unappropriated Fund Balance of around 20% of the budget. This works out to be around $215,000. This is emergency cushion money in case something drastically goes wrong in the town that would not be covered by insurance, etc. When I came into office on January 1, 2010 this balance was over $480,000. By the time 2010 is over and we add in any left over budget money not spent so far this year, this balance will be well over $500,000 dollars. It only needs to be around $215,000. We need to give this excess back to the taxpayers.

My plan is to spend down the excess cash in the Unappropriated Fund Balance until we finally get down to the 20% level. I do not want to spend this down overnight, but rather take at least 3 years to get there. This excess money is money that you already paid in taxes.

Hopefully, the amount of Townwide taxes that you paid on your old 2010 Wash. Co. Town & County Tax Bill last year will be the highest taxes that you will pay for quite a few years. It is my goal to use the old 2010 Total Town Tax levy as a landmark and see how many years we can hold back the clock and delay until we reach those 2010 numbers again.

In the meantime, Hartford’s Government will continue to sharpen its pencils, think outside the box, and become more efficient. By doing this, Hartford’s Government will be cheaper to fund and we might stretch this relief into 4 or 5 years.

Regards,  Dana

Trash Talk

Dear reader, sorry the format below looks weird but for some reason, every time I try to edit it, it does weird stuff like changing font size and running paragraphs into each other. I am going to quit while I am ahead and only half of it is screwed up.  Dana
The Trash and Recycling Transfer Stations are County owned and operated but since I have heard from a few of Hartford’s citizens on it, I’ll comment on it here. These same thoughts were conveyed by me at the recent Wash. Co. Board of Supervisors’ meeting.
If we only raise the sticker price 25 cents from $1.75 to $2.00 and do nothing else to improve the efficiency/economics of it, then we are just kicking the can down the road and we will be right back where we are now in a couple of years.
25 cent increase in sticker fee equals about $50,000 in revenue. The budget proposal was to shut the stations down in July 2011. To fund the stations for a full year which would include extra money to keep them open from July to December would cost the county about $42,000. The diff from $50,000 to $42,000 is only $8,000. This margin is too slim to rely upon for the places to “break even” in case a piece of equipment breaks down or needs to be replaced.  For example, the stations just bought a used book binding shear for $7,500 to replace one that is broken. This is used to remove the bindings from books so that the paper pages can be recycled. $7,500 even if it is half price the original is a lot of money to cut the binding off of a book. In a test I took an old large text book and ran it thru my 10″ table saw. Worked great.
My saw only cost $300 and is only 10″. A large production saw would cut thru a book like butter. The County owns a large old 16″ Navy Surplus production saw with a 5hp motor. The blade may gum up a little after awhile from glossy paper books but a couple of spare blades could be used while you soak and clean the dirty blades in a bucket of solvent. Some people have told me they thought this would be dangerous, but a wood worker would think that fear to be silly. I mean, the DPW guys use chainsaws, dont they??
We need to charge transfer station “fair market value ” for bags of Trash. This needs to be $2.50 to match Warren Co., plus an extra 50 cents per bag if your license plate says Vermont.
We cannot rely only on the increase in sticker fees. We need to approach this from both sides, Fee increase and efficiency. If a business ran it like the County did, they would soon be out of business. The proof of this is that there is a constant increase in the number of private haulers making their service available to Hartford. If they can make money, why do we loose money?
1) Stickers – do away with them. Have a gate or booth like other municipalities have. Pop open the trunk, count the bags and collect the fee. Then let the car drive in and have 1 person direct traffic. Use a nanny cam if you do not trust the person collecting money. If that person pockets money or allows their buddy past without paying, then fire them and prosecute them. That is what Stewart’s Shops or any other private enterprise would do.
2) The Transfer Stations are not only funded thru stickers but also taxes. Washington County taxes. If a car with VT plates that comes thru the check-in booth, charge them 50 cents extra per trash bag since they do not pay Wash. Co. Taxes. By having our regular price set at $2.50 which is the same as Warren Co municipalities, we will do not have to worry about Warren County border jumpers taking advantage of a bargain.

3) We need to have only 3 stations, not the 5 we currently have. The County is long and skinny so locate 1 in the North, 1 Center and 1 South. We do not need both Whitehall and Granville in the north. We do not need both Jackson and Greenwich in the south. Let the Recycling Advisory Board figure out which one to retain in the North and South.

4) Sell or lease the two left over stations to what ever business wants to come in. This helps our tax base. Do not keep this real estate county owned if it is going to sitt empty and idle. Sell them or lease them.

5) In the past, the Stations reduced days of accepting trash but the workers still showed up for work. The gates are closed to the public but the parking lot is still full of workers cars. The workers are members of the Teamsters Union and I am sure they are guaranteed a 40 hour work week. If we get rid of the extra stations in the North and South, then you have more workers for the remaining 3 stations and we can can be open more days per week. If the stations are open more days during the week, then we might see more revenue.

6) I do not think we need a Solid Waste Czar but we sure need someone in upper management who will be fired if these stations remain a drain on taxes. Maybe then they will listen to the “little guy” with good ideas like the worker from the Kingsbury Station that addressed the Board of Supervisors. Let Solid Waste manager lay awake at night worrying about the bottom line and their job, that is what Private enterprise does.

We need to think outside the box on this and cannot become complacent just because we slapped a 25 cent band aid on the problem wishing it will go away.

In County Gov’t I often hear “we can’t do that”, which when pushed really means “we can do that, but not with ease”. We can do this. If these stations are to remain in the hands of the County, we must do this.

The bottom line is that the Board of Supervisors are responsible for these stations slipping into the position of becoming money loosers. A few years ago they made money. What happended? We can blame all the workers we want but the buck stops at the Board of Supervisors, of which I am one. We are not doing our job if we continue the status quo. If that continues to happen then we need to be fired. In the new year I will request to be put on the County DPW committee to help insure this can is not kicked down the road.     Dana








Miscellaneous spot

I notice that some comments to the blog have nothing to do with the post they are commenting on.  Maybe that is because there is not a post location where you can make a miscellaneous remark or comment. So, here it is…. I may regret it. Dana

2011 Hartford Budget and new 3 year Fire Contract passes Town Board Vote

Last night at a Special meeting of the Hartford Town board, both the Supervisor’s Preliminary Budget and new 3 year Fire Service contract passed. Both of these items had a public hearing right before the Town board voted.

The Budget will see the following decreases in the Tax Levy (amount to be raise in taxes); Townwide -15%, Fire District -0.5%.

The budget includes a new $10,500 line item for the creation of a Hartford Economic Developement Corporation. For years people have said that we need more businesses in town to help offset our tax levy. Wishing for this to happen has not worked to well for us so far. So, I created funding for this to form an entity that will have as its sole focus the economic developement of the town. Hartford does not have the infrastructure (sewer, natural gas piped in, city water, etc.) required for heavy industry but we do have plenty of space for light industry. Even though we may not be able to get the “big brass ring” of economic developement, lots of smaller ones can add up to the benefit of the town’s tax base. Now we will need to solicit resumes for Hartford individuals interested on serving on the EDC/LDC Board of directors. I envision local business owners serving as board members, perhaps 5 of them?. Successful business owners that have the knowledge to assist in business developement, not owners that have declared bankruptcy several times over. This Board would be appointed by the Hartford Town Board.

When you get your County & Town Tax Bill in the mail in January, you will see that the percentage of change from last year will be shown as a negative value. Funny enough, but Washington County prints this tax bill and ran a test run on the Hartford decreases. They are having a little difficulty getting the -15.0 to print out right because they have never had to contend with a negative double digit number before! The -15.0 rides up against the column where they show the total town tax levy and the resulting number looks a little bit like a tax parcel ID number with all its commas, periods and dashes. Bill McCarty, at Washington County Real Property tells me that he will continue working on the format of the tax bill so that the -15.0 % will appear in a clearly understandable way.

I would suggest that everyone keep their old 2010 tax bill handy in the future years to see how long we can sustian this tax relief program. Hopefully, the amount of money you were taxed in 2010 on the townwide line will be the highest burden for quite a while. Hopefully,  it will take about another 4 to 5 years of lowered taxes before the levy gets anywhere near the old 2010 level.


2011 Town Budget part 2 with a 15% decrease in Tax Levy

There will be a Public Hearing on the Supervisor’s Preliminary Town Budget at 7pm Weds 10/27/10.  This budget, as it stands will see a 15% decrease in the Townwide Tax Levy and a 1/2% decrease in the Fire Protection Levy.

This reduction in Townwide Tax Levy can be sustained for about 3 years as long as something really wacko does not happen like an asteroid hitting the town hall or $5 a gallon gasoline.

I can accomplish this 3 year tax reduction because of 2 things;

1) The Highway Superintendent has cut over $60,000 from his budget. Greg Brown, using fiscal restraint and innovative ways to stretch the dollar has made the Highway Department much more efficient. The Highway Dept takes the lion share of the Budget, so any cut back in costs really affects the taxes. The Highway Dept workers recently joined the Teamsters Union and the negotiated 3 year contract with them sees a 3% increase in wages after 3 years. This is not 3% a year, but 3% after the 3 year life of the contract with year 1 = 0% increase, year 2 = 1.5% increase and year 3 = 1.5% increase. Therefore, as far as highway wages go, we can see 3 years down the road for anticipated expenses.

2)   After careful research and discussions with the NYS Comptroller, Wash County Treasurer, & NYS Association of Towns I have determined that our Unappropriated Fund Balance does not need to be as large as it is. The Unappropriated Fund Balance is left over money that accumulates from year to year that does not have a destination. If the town does not spend all the money allocated in the budget, the excess that is not already pegged to be spent on anything specific goes into this “piggy bank”. This piggy bank is meant as an “OH CRAP!” cushion fund in case you need to spend much more than anticipated due to an emergency, etc. In my opinion this fund is too large and needs to be spent down to a reasonable level. The Town, with its risk factors, etc should have an Unappropriated Fund Balance of about 20% of the 2011 appropriations. This equals to about $211,000 and once the left over money for 2010  is figured in, could approach half a million dollars. It is cruel hearted to continue high taxing our citizens in the worst recession most of us have ever seen while sitting on this larger than needed mountain of cash. By bringing down around $75,000 per year, to offset the amount of taxes we pay, it will take about 3 years to get the Unappropriated Fund Balance where it should be.  You hear that the recession is over and then the next day it is back on. But one thing I do know is that jobs are a lagging indicator and they are the first things to go and the last things to come back. A 3 year Town Tax relief program will be a welcome relief to those of us having a hard time with our personal budgets. We are taxed to death in this state and during the next 3 years, we will not be resting on our laurels, but rather sharpening our pencils to try to stretch this tax relief to 4 or 5 years.

Fire Protection Levy: For the 2011 Tax bill, this will show a 1/2% decrease in levy. The reason for this is that the 2011 year has the same $136,000 payment as the 2010 year, but due to a $661 credit from the county it will actually be slightly decreased to $135,339 for 2011. I recently negotiated a new 3 year contract with the Hartford Volunteer Fire Company subject to Town Board approval and due to the fiscal conservative nature of the Fire Company we were able to come up with an increase of 3.6% after the end of 3 years.  The Fire Company were real team players in my attempt to lower the amount of town taxes we pay. The increase from year 1 ($136,000) to year 3 ($141,000) is $5,000 but due to the fact that the Fire Company will pay the town back $9,000 over the next 3 years for a Heating Oil bill error, it is actually a 2% decrease.

Please come to the Public Hearing on the 27th and advocate for the budget and lower taxes. Also advocate for the approval of the Fire Contract.


Is it soup yet?

My fellow Supervisor, Seth Pitts of Salem is heavily involved in Salem’s food bank. He informed me that Washington County is recognised as being underserved as far as food banks go.

On Oct. 20th a tractor trailer with 12 pallets of food will position itself at the Washington County Municipal Center for a mass distribution to the county’s regional food banks.

I have often heard that $1 worth of monetary donation can purchase up to $12 worth of food at the regional distribution center if local food pantries go there to get it. But in this case the distribution center will come to us. Plus, this time there will be no cost for the food.

Many of the items that will be offered to local pantries are perishable items but they are long term perishable things like onions, potatos, etc.

Seth asked me to spread the word in Hartford so I contacted Pastor Mike Richards of the Hartford Yoked Parish. The Hartford food pantry is located in the Yoked Parish Baptist Church on Main St.  I also asked Pastor Mike to spread the word amongst his other food pantry contacts.

So, on the 2oth, Peter Klaiber, Harrison Cornell and myself will drive our pickups and trailers to the municipal center in order to fill Hartford’s food pantry larder.

With the economy in the doldrums and unemployment over 9%, food pantries are an increasingly important staple for those that find themselves struggling to provide food for themselves and their families. Every little bit helps….


Tolling of the bells.

Hartford does not have an American Legion Post, but that is OK because Hartford’s veteran’s are well served by posts in Ft. Ann, Argyle, and Granville.

Paul Milligan, a member of the Ft. Ann post contacted me about tolling of church bells on Veteran’s Day to honor our veterans. The West Ft. Ann church is going to do it and he asked if Hartford might want to do it as well.

Small world because I just so happen to be the bell ringer at the Hartford Methodist Church. I told him I would be happy to do it. I contacted Seth Pitts, the Supervisor of Salem and he said he could get the “White Church” in the village of Salem to do the same. Pastor Mike Richards of the Hartford Yoked Parish will see if the bell atop the South Hartford Congregational Church is capable of ringing as well.

Veteran’s Day, which is observed on Nov 11th was originally called Armistice Day. Armistice Day celebrated the Treaty of Versailles which ended WWI on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. The old fashion way of observingArmistice Day and Veteran’s Day was to have churches thru out the USA ring their church bells for 1 minute at 11am on Nov 11th.

But in our modern times we have lost that tradition and Paul would like to bring it back. I admit that I have never heard of it but I think it is the least we can do to honor our Veteran’s. So if you happen to hear church bells ring for 1 minute at 11am on Nov. 11th, it doesn’t mean that the church is on fire, it means that we are honoring our Veterans.

Wouldn’t it be nice if this caught on thru out Washington County?