2011 Town Budget part 1

There will be a Tentative Budget Workshop at the town hall at 6:30pm Monday 10/4/10. This Tentative budget, after much analysis and research should see about a 12% reduction in the amount of tax levied over last year.  With the terrible economy, we could all use some tax relief. Please come to the workshop to see your government in action. Dana

Let’s move the voting machines from the Town Hall to the Fire House.

The recent Primary vote held in the Town Hall was a little more cramped than usual. That is because the new voting machines do not have their own privacy screens. The new machine is  just a card scanner so the privacy part where you fill out the ballot is provided by a separate  privacy kiosk which ended up using more hall floor space than the old style. When filling out my ballot I was able to turn around and put my hand on the table where the inspectors sat.

This somewhat crowded condition brought to mind the old idea that gets brought up every once in a while to move the Polling Station to the Fire House.  After this Primary vote, Councilwoman Barb Beecher felt the same way and asked me to look into the Firehouse idea to see what I could do.

I  have often heard that the grant used to build the Fire House prohibited the hall’s use for political events. But I feel that voting in a Primary or General Election is not a political event like a Republican fund raising dinner. Voting to select who represents you is the basis for our form of Republic and nothing is more American than that so why would that be prohibited?

I contacted Kevin McCarthy, the President of the Hartford Volunteer Fire Company to discuss this and Kevin found an old letter on the matter. In 2008 Representative Gillibrand contacted the U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to ask if the Hartford Fire House could be used as the town’s polling station under the terms and conditions of the grant. The letter that Kevin found is HUD’s reply to Rep. Gillibrand and HUD says that it can be used as a Polling Station.

The reasons I think the location should be changed from the Town Hall to the Fire Hall are; 1) The Town Hall will be too small with the new voting machine and privacy kiosk if we have a large voter turn out. If it rains during a large voter turnout, the public would have to line up in the truck bays of the Highway Dept bldg. 2) The Fire hall is newer and nicer with a larger seating capacity. 3) The Fire hall has separate ladies and men’s rooms whereas the Town Hall has a single uni-sex toilet. 4) The Fire Hall has a soda machine and a kitchen for coffee urn, etc. 5) Hartford has one of the nicest Fire Halls in the county so why not use it and show it off?

I called the Washington County Board of Elections and they tell me that they have the final approval authority on re-locating the Polling Station. So, if we can get the Fire Company Board of Directors to say OK and the Hartford Town Board’s approval it should just be a matter of course to get it changed.

The voting held at school for school budgets are not subject to this idea. The school owns their own voting machines and the school gov’t is independent of the Town Gov’t.

This re-location (if approved) will not happen in time for this November’s General Election because the postcards the Board of Elections use to inform you where to go were already printed in August. But if we want to vote at the Fire House in 2011, now is the time to start the process. The deadline to do this is May 2011 but I don’t want to wait that long to get it done.

What do you think of this idea?


Fair Week

The Washington County Fair is now behind us. I went to the fair 3 days this year and must admit, at first I thought it was going to be a washout. But once again the weather man’s 5 day forecast couldn’t get past day 1 correctly- thank goodness. The opening ceremony had cats and dogs raining down but after that the sun came out and it was perfect fair weather for the rest of the week.

I have been to a few other county fairs and I think ours is the jewel of all county fairs. Our Ag connection remains strong and I think this connection makes it the fair that it is.

All of us locals know which end of a horse is what but many “city folk” attend the fair and are amazed at the size of the animals and that you can pet them and talk to a real live farmer. It makes it a personal experience for them and they learn that milk comes from a cow living in the country, not the store.

I was entered into the milking contest on Friday night with the Washington County Dairy Princess (Hartford’s Mary Foote) as my partner. We had 2 minutes to hand milk a cow and afterwards the contents of our pail was weighed to see which of the 6 teams won. Mary and I had milk shooting out of the teats like laser beams and we felt sure that we would win. But we came in 3rd. At least we did better than Congressman Scott Murphy, who came in last place and barely managed to cover the bottom of his pail.  

I am already looking forward to next year’s fair, are you too?


Car 34 where are you?

I am not old enough to remember the TV sitcom “Car 54 where are you?” but I admit that I am old enough to know that there was such a show staring Fred Gwynne. Fred later went on to became Herman Munster.

For $1, the Hartford Volunteer Fire Company will soon have a new car. It is a 2006 Crown Victoria which was recently Washington County Sheriff Deputy car #312.  A resolution, voted upon by the Washington County Board of Supervisors was approved today to do this.

Hartford’s designation, as assigned by the county is “34”. All the Hartford fire vehicle ID numbers start with “34” (#343, #346, etc.)  This new vehicle will be called the “Department Car” and carry the designator #34.

This car was in the process of being stripped to send to the auto auction but I was able to pounce upon it and put a dibs on it for Hartford. It has over 100,000 miles but is still in decent shape and will lend itself to be an asset to the HVFC.

I don’t envision that the Fire Chief will roar up to a fire in an shiny car with lights and siren wailing. Instead, the members, when traveling to training or offsite meetings will not have to drive personal vehicles using personal gasoline.

The members of the Fire Company are all volunteers. They do not receive salaries or monetary compensation for jumping out of bed at 3am and risking their lives protecting our lives and property so it is the least we can do to provide them with halfway decent equipment. Hopefully this ex-cop car will make their lives easier and mitigate some out of pocket expenses.

I’d like to thank the Wash. County Sheriff’s office, Wash. County DPW, Wash. County Public Safety Committee, Wash. County Finance Committee, and the Board of Supervisor’s Clerk for assisting me in this endeavor.


Hartford has a new Sole Assessor

Hartford’s long serving Assessor, Nancy Strong will retire from the position effective 9/30/10.

The Town Board solicited applications and conducted 7 interviews for the position. We had some very qualified candidates apply and in the end chose Ms. Sandra (Hanna) Foley of Ticonderoga.

Bill McCarty, Director of Wash. County Real Property Tax Services, and Nancy Strong both attended the interview session and assisted the town board during the interview process. This was very generous of them and much appreciated by the Town Board.

Sandy has an extensive public relations background from when she worked with Niagara Mohawk and has current real property appraisal experience. Sandy also serves on the Ticonderoga Board of Assessment Review so she knows what it is like to be confronted by disgruntled property owners unhappy with their assessments. Plus, since she grew up in Hartford as Gordon’s and Edna’s daughter she already has broad based knowledge of the local road system and where each section of town is located.

Sandy will still need to be approved by the State before we can officially hire her as our Sole Assessor effective 10/1/10. Once Officially hired Sandy will take courses offered by the County and State in order to become a Certified Assessor.  

Both the State and County recommend that the Sole Assessor have an office space in the Town Hall and regular scheduled office hours in the Town Hall in order to be readily assessable to the public. We have a “snug” space in the town hall that we can set up with a desk and file cabinets for Sandy’s use. We will ask that Sandy pick 1 day a week to come into the town hall and attend her office.  


Hartford Veterans’ Monument relocation comes to a close

Since my original posting 6/22/10 “Where angels fear to tread” much has happened and information learned in regards to my plan to relocate the Veterans’ monument currently located at the school.

My idea of relocating the monument to the area near the Old Hartford Cemetery fence, across the street from the Civil War Enlistment Center was recently supported by the Hartford Baptist Church Board of Trustees. There is a 15′ wide strip running along the length of the cemetery fence between the County Route 23 right of way and the fence. This land, along with the burial ground belongs to the Baptist Church so I sought their approval. They voted yes unanimously.

I figured before I proposed this plan to the Town Board that I should get all other permissions first. The School Board of Education gave permission and now the Baptist Church gave permission.

But a wrinkle appeared as I did more research.  A not for profit corporation called “The Hartford Area Veterans Memorial Delegation” was created in July 2005 regarding this monument.

For a fee of $5.00 I was able to get a copy of the papers from the NYS Dept of State, Division of Corporations that were drawn up for this corp.

The paper work shows that the Corporation was created with the purpose to raise funding for the design, creation, engraving, erection and maintaining of the monument. 

All of these things have been completed by the corporation but the part where is says “maintaining” leads me to think that that insinuates action into the future which also lends to the argument that the Corporation still controls the monument even though the school is in possession of it.

This Corporation is listed by the State as being current. The Board of Directors for this Corporation are listed as Doris Aubrey, Willard Aubrey, and Roger Smith. Of these three, only Doris survives. 

The town received a letter last month from Wallace Swezey stating that he is opposed to relocating the monument. He signed his letter “Director”. His brother Mike claims not to know anything of Wally’s role in the monument, but this indicates that besides Doris, Wally is another director and he is opposed to it. That makes 2 out of 3 possible directors opposed to the plan.

I feel that in order to go any farther and try to force the issue would mean legal and court expenses that I am not willing to subject the tax payers to.

My original plan, with ample volunteers, meant that this could be moved with minimal expense. As it looks now, the expense of legal action would not be palatable to the town. I also feel that in court, it would be easier for the Corporation to show that they have control of the monument as opposed to the town taking control. I do not want to spend tax dollars on a case I feel is weak, especially when the economy is down. This also was the general sentiment expressed by the Town Board and public at last night’s Town Board meeting

In my opinion, it is a shame that the potential benefit to the community, veteran’s, and monument was lost to the Corporation digging in its heels basically saying “hell no!”. Repeated calls by me to Doris go unanswered to see if she has changed her mind. Her original comment to me way back when I started this was that the idea of moving it made her sick to her stomach. She may have caller ID because the phone just rings and rings.

So, long story short, I think it is time to stop beating this dead horse and dismount. I’d like to thank all those that supported this idea and pledged to help.


HVFC 5th Annual Benefit Golf Tournament

The Hartford Volunteer Fire Co.  will be holding its 5th Annual Benefit Golf Tournament on Sept. 12th at the Pole Valley Players Club, 3737 State Route 196, Hartford NY 12838.

Shotgun start will be at 8:30am sharp.

Donation: $75 per player and includes the round of golf with cart.

Tournament Contests: Longest Drive, Closest to Pin, & Best Score.

The tournament includes a hearty breakfast, great golf, and an amazing lunch. Finish up with plenty of refreshments for all to enjoy. There will be several prizes and raffles through out the day.

Please reserve your team spot by Sept 7, by calling Hartford Fire Chief Brian Jones at 518-632-5326 or 518-796-1574.

Tell them Dana sent you and maybe they will reduce your score by 1 stroke.


Town Wide Garage Sale

Hartford’s Annual townwide garage sale will take place this year on Sat Aug 14th and Sun Aug 15th.

If you wish to register your sale, please call Bonnie Williamson (As time goes by country decor gift shop,  #23 County Route 23, Main Street Hartford) at 632-5166. There is no fee for this and if you call Bonnie before July 29th, your listing will be included in the FreePress newspaper’s map of the townwide sale.

Besides the individual garage sales, there will be Flea Market vendors in the villages of Hartford and South Hartford.

In addition, on Saturday the 14th there will be a Flower Show at the Mason Lodge and a Rumage sale at the Methodist Church. The Methodist Church will also be offering an Ice Cream Social from 1pm to 3pm Saturday. The Hartford Museum/Civil War Enlistment will be open on Saturday. These are all on Main Street (County Rt 23) Hartford. On Sunday there will be a take out Chicken BBQ located next to Stewarts on State Route 40. The BBQ will be put on by the Hartford Fish and Game Club.

Porta-Potty, for Saturday and Sunday will be provided by the Town of Hartford and will be on the front lawn of the Hartford Museum/Civil War Enlistment Center located on Main Street, Village of Hartford (#55 County Route 23).


Where Angels Fear To Tread

This past Memorial Day was one of the first Hartford Memorial Day Parades that I did not see in a long time. That was because I was at the head of the parade and was unable to watch the passing floats and participants.

After the parade, quite a few Veterans came up to me to tell me that they did not approve of the school location for the Veterans’ Monument. This monument, which lists Hartford citizens from WWII to the Persian Gulf was erected at the school in 2005. It is located next to the High School building near the School Bus circle. I have seen kids climb on it like a jungle gym and it should be in a location more fitting for the honor and respect the Veterans deserve.

I started to inquire about the monument and heard many stories about all the controversy around the creation and installation of the monument. I kept hearing the same question “Oh boy! Are you crazy? Do you know what you are getting in for?”  I have been told that names that should be on it were not included and names that should not be on it are, etc, etc, etc…  But, despite all these questions about my sanity, many Veterans would give me words of encouragement and said that what I proposed to do was the right thing and they were supportive of it.

 I do not want to relive all of the old battles, insults and injuries from the heyday surrounding the Monument’s creation and installation, my focus is simply on relocating the monument. All these arguments, though valid only detract from my mission to relocate the monument. The fact of the matter is that the monument is in the here and now. It exists and we should not ignore it because there may have been some flaws in its creation and installation. Let us honor the names on the stone and not be hell bent on throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

On the back of the monument is a listing of the original citizens committee. I called these members to gauge their opinion on relocating the monument. Two are deceased but 4 out of 5 of the remaining members approved of my plan to relocate the monument.

Last night I went before the Hartford Board of Education and requested that the Town be allowed to take possession of the monument for the purpose of relocating it to a more appropriate location.

I proposed to move it up to the center of town on Main Street across the street from the Civil War Enlistment Center. This location would be up against the fence of the Old Hartford Cemetary and very near the Civil War Memorial Mound of Dirt, and just up the street from the WWI Veterans’ Monument where the Memorial Day Parade speeches are made. All of these various Veterans’ monuments will now be in the same general location. 

The Hartford Board of Education unanimously approved of turning possession over to the town.

Bob & Barb Liebig of Utopia Enterprises have offered the use of their crane truck and Glen Churchill, who works with monuments has the needed straps and know-how to help move it. The Liebigs said they would help move the monument even if we had to do it at midnight wearing ski masks. I told them I would settle for the crane usage and help with the concrete works needed to make a new foundation.

I think with the help of volunteers that the monument could be moved at very little cost. The school only requests that we jackhammer to top of the old concrete foundation about 8″ below the soil line so that some dirt and grass seed could be put down to make the whole area lawn again.

Many years ago the Hartford WWII Honor Roll monument was erected up against the fence of the Old Hartford Cemetary, so there is a precedence for using this location. That monument was a sheet of plywood but could not remain there permanently there due to the weather. This Honor Roll is in the Town Hall vestibule and can still be seen today.

The Hartford Town Board will need to approve of this plan and I plan to bring it up at the July 13th Town Board Meeting.

My goal would be to have the Monument in place so that it can be rededicated on Veterans’ Day.

So, what do you think of my plan?


New vision for Youth Commission?

Monday night, 6/15/10 the Hartford Youth Commission held a special meeting to discuss parent concerns over the summer program for Middle League Boys’ Baseball and Girls’ Softball.

At the meeting I learned that the commission is having a hard time operating with the onerous financial restrictions put upon them.  The previous Hartford Town Board Administration had imposed a moratorium limiting spending to no more then $125 at a time. 

I feel that members of the Youth Commission would not have been appointed by the Town Board if they were not responsible citizens. To place such restrictive bounds upon them is counter productive. The Youth Commission is comprised of volunteers and this is no way to reward their hard work and dedication.

True, there may have been some irresponsible expenditures two years ago due to lack of oversite from the Commission but the way to fix the problem is to address the specific problem head-on and perhaps replace people instead of being reactionary and condeming the whole program.  Besides, I think  the composition of the commission is different now but they are paying the price for the transgressions of others.

Summer programs, unlike school time programs require paid Referees and Umpires. With this $125 limit, the commission contributes a small percentage towards the programs. I do not think that the commission should feel so impoverished and play such a small financial role especially considering the large amount of money in their fund. 

 My “Global” vision of the Youth Commission is this;

  • Remove the $125 Moratorium limit and raise the spending limit to $1,000 before special permission is needed by the Town Board. Since this moratorium motion passed in 2008 it will need to be overturned by the Town Board.
  • Many, many years ago (at least 15 years ago) there was a vibrant fund raising program to raise money to purchase land for playing fields. This $25,000 has been sitting in the Youth Commission account ever since gathering dust. Land was never found and one year rolled into the next and here we are some 15 or so years later with still no purchase of land. Let us give up on that idea. The time to buy the land was 15 years ago when school enrollment was up and the youth population was much higher than now. Buying land, if it were available would have been done long ago. Enrollment in school is down.  The need to purchase additional fields has long passed and the money just sitting there benefits no one.
  • Re-vitalize the plan the Commission brought forward 2 years ago to install a little kid baseball diamond behind the FireHouse. The Commission had lined up Hartford Volunteer Fire Company support, volunteer bulldozer work, and manual labor. At the time it was estimated that it would take about $5,000 to install a field on the  HVFC land. But this was turned down by the Town Board because they would not  have 100% ownership and control over the land.
  • If the Commission had an additional field behind the FireHouse and still used the fields at the school then they would have sufficient fields for the decreasing youth population and would not need to spend $25,000 on buying land.  No matter how much we may want it, there will never be a guarantee that the State will not mandate that the FireHouse requires a training facility, etc which would require the HVFC to take back the field. That should not deter us because you could spend all day dreaming up imaginary scenerios which would make you immobile if you succumbed to these worse fears.
  • With the FireHouse field, the need to buy land would be eliminated and the $20,000 remaining could be used on a conservative basis to decrease the amount of money the parents have to outlay in order for their kids to participate.
  • The Commission needs to be a little more demanding upon the parents to participate in fund raising. The Snack Shack is a good money maker but not when it is closed because parents resisted the call to contibute their time in manning it. With strong fundraising efforts the $20,000 available could stretch for 15-20 years. That is not impossible to accomplish especially when you consider the fact that the $25,000 came from zealous fundraising efforts to start with.
  •  The account  has $10,000 additional money set aside for equipment replacement. Some equipment has been replaced but much is still in poor shape. Get on with it and replace the equipment if it no longer provides protection and safety. There is sufficient money for this but not when you are restricted to spend no more than $125 at a time.
  • If a child gets injured and needs an icepack the coach can get it at the Snack Shack. But what if there is no-one working the Snack Shack and the key to it has to be found? All coaches should be provided with an inexpensive red tool box or tackle box with SnapPack Chemical IcePacks and compress bandages. Not having to wait 10 minutes while some one searches for the Snack Shack key could make a big difference in bruising, swelling and recovery. I am not in favor of full blown First Aid Kits but most injuries will most likely be impact or collision types which would benefit from an icepack and/or compress bandage. I am no Doctor but I really doubt that you can worsen an injury or place a child in jeapardy with an icepack.

On Monday night, at the end, the Commission seemed to become energized at the prospects of my idea. They came in to the meeting looking a little down trodden and left with excitement about the future.

But, and this is a big BUT. I am only 1 vote out of 5 on the Town Board. Sometimes change is hard. If you support this idea please come to the next Town Board meeting on July 13th and let your opinion be known or call a Council Member (Barb Beecher, Lee Wilson, Bob Miller, & Kevin Eastman) and let them know.  Dont forget to talk to HVFC President Kevin McCarthy or Fire Chief Brian Jones, because they also need to be onboard with this since it is HVFC land. Please also let members of the Youth Commission know your support as well. Youth Commission Chairwoman Krissy Stewart just had her baby so Sarina Lavin Gibson is filling in as Chairwoman.

If you are against this plan, please let your thoughts be known as well.