Town board deals with trucks, trees, a dog, football players and kids

B y Lee Tugas

The Whitehall Town Board adopted a preliminary budget that tops $1 million.

The board adopted the budget, which stays within Governor Andrew Cuomo’s mandated 2-percent cap, during a busy meeting last Wednesday in which the board also dealt with aging trucks, leafy trees, a biting dog, football players and kids.

The budget represents a tax levy increase of only $22,000, Supervisor George Armstrong said.

Supervisor George Armstrong and the Town Board set the date of 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, for a public hearing on the budget. That night it is expected the board will have an estimate on individual tax increases, based on $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Move from big truck to smaller truck

Town Highway Superintendent Louis Pratt recommended to the board that when they replace their aging “Gradall” truck, they replace it with a mid-size excavator.

Pratt explained that the Gradall Excavator apparently does precisely that:

“The Gradall digs up twice the road as needed to put in a culvert,” Pratt said.

He recommended that when the town budgets for a replacement excavator in 2015 that they purchase a mid-size excavator which costs between $90,000 to $100,000.

The Gradall periodically has motor problems. It would cost $250,000 to replace; moreover, the smaller excavator is not only cheaper but more maneuverable, Pratt explained.

“It does not tear up the blacktop,” Pratt said, even though the machine has steel-traction wheels.

After the meeting, Armstrong explained that the town has a schedule for truck replacement. Purchase of a mid-size excavator will most likely take place late in 2015, since it will take until then for the town to pay off $120,000, which is a one-year municipal bond obligation on a dump truck the town purchased, Armstrong said.

Gould’s to clip and fell trees

The board awarded to Gould’s Lawn and Landscaping a total contract of $3,400 for tree work near the town office building and the Skenesborough Museum.

For that amount, Gould’s will “crown clean” two silver maples and eight black locusts; trim a large silver maple’s branches from power wires; fell a black locust; “crown clean” a group of cedars, and pin with cable and steel rod two cedars held together by steel chain; and “crown thin” a River Birch and a Pear Tree to provide clearance.

When Gould’s topples the black locust, the landscaping workmen will also grind the stump and leave debris clearly marked “in orange ribbon,” the contract proposal states.

Highway Superintendent Louis Pratt said that the chips would be removed from the scene by the town.

Deal with biting dog

In a written report, Dog Control Officer Nancy Quell reported that a roving, unlicensed dog had left its own property, killed a neighborhood cat and attacked another dog. Town Clerk Julie Millet said, and the board agreed, that “Nancy can seize the dog.”

But both Councilman Dick LaChapelle and Pratt said that they would talk to the dog’s owner about dealing in a sensible manner with the clearly disturbed animal, rather than risk town seizure and euthanasia of the dog.

Play at your own risk

Since the Recreation Area is closed on Sunday, the board agreed that the playground should be locked and that two amateur football teams that play on the property should be advised that they “play at their own risk.”

The board discussed which would be the better way of solving the problem — installing a warning sign or increasing police patrolling of the area on Sunday. Councilwoman Stephanie Safka, speaking from her experience as a business woman, doubted a “Play at Your Own Risk” sign would do much good. LaChapelle, a village police sergeant, favored police patrolling. The board agreed to let LaChapelle handle the matter with his fellow officers.

Bonfire Debris

Armstrong noted that “No one came from the high school to pick up the ashes and remains” left over from a bonfire on town property, the climax of the high school’s “Spirit Week.”

“This is the third year in a row, they have not cleaned up the mess,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong added that he would speak to High School Principal Kelly McHugh about the matter.

Final business

The board conducted the following final business:

It agreed with Armstrong that the town should adopt Washington County’s developing policy on fingerprinting and conducting background checks on prospective employees.

It learned from Heritage Director Carol Greenough that Syracuse’s Pomeroy Foundation was considering a grant to install an historic sign on Main Street, Whitehall’s “historic district.”

It agreed with Greenough that Recreation Director Julie Egan was wise to seek $1,400 in grants, even if the dollar amount is small.

“If you can acquire those funds,” Greenough said, “you should. Those small grants work.”

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