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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, January 19, 2006

Berne will charge out-of-towners to use park pavilion

By Matt Cook

BERNE—Following the trend set by other towns, Berne will start charging for out-of-towners to reserve the pavilion in the town park.

At a meeting last Wednesday, the Berne Town Board voted unanimously to charge non-residents a non-refundable fee of $25 to reserve the pavilion.

"I don’t think a small fee for non-residents is too much to ask," said Supervisor Kevin Crosier.

Since last year, the town has been discussing, on and off, adding the fees. Town Clerk Patricia Favreau said she checked with other area towns.

"Many of them don’t allow non-residents to use it," Favreau said.

Favreau said she did not check with Knox.

The purpose of the fee is to discourage non-residents from reserving the pavilion and then not showing up on the day of the reservation, taking the pavilion away from residents who might want to use it. The fee will also help pay town employees to clean up after an event at the pavilion.

"We do have expenses right now," said Councilman James Hamilton. "We don’t want them to eat there among the weeds."

Favreau discounted the possibility of taking a deposit and returning it if the park is left in good condition.

"I can’t take money and not deposit it right away," Favreau said.

After the vote, however, Councilman Joseph Golden said, "I will say, if I gave you $25 and never get it back, I would never cancel."

The town is planning on installing a well at the park and, eventually, a bathroom. One of the biggest complaints about the park, Crosier has said, is its lack of running water and its smelly composting toilets.

Hamilton suggested that, once the well is operational, the town should find out from its citizens if they want a kitchen or other facilities at the park.

"I’d like to see a community project to see what people really want," Hamilton said.

Other business

In other business at the Jan. 11 meeting, the Berne Town Board:

—Announced that it has been awarded a $15,400 grant from the state for snowmobile trail maintenance. The money will be given to local snowmobile clubs which will do the work.

"This has been a great program from the beginning," Crosier said. "The landowners are really happy and the snowmobilers do a great job."

The town of Knox got a similar grant for $5,000;

—Approved an intermunicipal agreement for shared services with the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School District. The agreement is required to apply jointly for a state grant to buy a truck. They plan to share the truck for snow removal and waste disposal;

—Agreed to discuss the space problem at the town hall at a working meeting on Feb. 22. The town hall shares a building with the Berne Library and historical museum, none of which has enough space.

The town has discussed building a new town hall, renovating the current one, or moving into an existing building; however, no decision has been made. Meanwhile, the library board is raising money for a move.

"They are moving along very well," said Golden, the town’s liaison to the library board. "It’s not fair for them to be active and motivated unless we’re prepared to make a decision."

"You’re right," said Crosier. "The sooner we get down to making a decision, the better off we’re going to be."

New meeting time, new purchase policy

Matt Cook

RENSSELAERVILLE — The new supervisor hit the ground running at his first regular town board meeting and the town came out to watch him.

The standing-room-only crowd spilled out of the town hall’s meeting room and into the hallway.

"The more input we have, the better," said Supervisor Jost Nickelsberg. Nickelsberg was sworn in on Jan. 1. In the fall election, the Republican beat his Democratic opponent, David Bryan, 515 to 378. It’s Nickelsberg’s first public office.

The previous supervisor, J. Robert Lansing, a Republican, decided not to run for reelection. Instead, he ran for a council seat, receiving the highest number of votes.

Nickelsberg has been a Rensselaerville resident for only 10 years, but, he told The Enterprise, he has heard from others that Thursday’s meeting was the best attended in recent memory. He felt it went well.

"We moved it right along," Nickelsberg said. "We got a lot done."

The meeting was scheduled for 7 p.m. Under Lansing, meetings were held at 8 p.m. Nickelsberg said the change is permanent and it is meant to accommodate busy agendas and citizens who have to get up early for work.

Among other things, the board discussed the town’s procurement policy.

"We’re going to look very hard at everything that we spend money on," Nickelsberg said.

For example, Nickelsberg told The Enterprise, he and highway Superintendent G. Jon Chase will be looking into the price of oil. Currently, the town is paying about $5 per gallon for 400 gallons a year.

"We have never aggressively looked at other options," Nickelsberg said.

With everything from highway materials to the information technology in the town hall, the town will be searching for the best price and the best service, he said.

The burden for keeping costs down will also fall on town officers. For example, Nickelsberg said, officials attending the upcoming conference of New York’s Association of Towns in New York City will be required to do more than observe. They will have to present reports, Nickelsberg said, and come back with at least one good idea for the town.

"If we do that with everything that we spend money on, we will save a considerable amount of money," Nickelsberg said.

New law firm

Nickelsberg noted that the town’s new law firm, Tabner, Ryan, and Keniry, of Albany, will cost the town $1,000 less this year then the previous lawyers. On Jan. 1, the town appointed the firm to replace Town Attorney Joseph Catalano and Deputy Attorney Jon Kosich.

The town board’s Democrats, Sherri Pine and Gary Chase, voted against the chase. Nickelsberg, however, said he wanted to avoid any conflicts of interest. Both Catalano and Kosich live in Rensselaerville.

At Thursday’s meeting, Jeff Pine, a town assessor and code-enforcement officer, and Councilwoman Pine’s husband, spoke to the board in favor of Catalano.

"I’m kind of disappointed we lost a good man," Pine said. "I’m a little concerned we’re going to lose that personal touch that a resident would have."

Pine said he was worried the lowest person in the firm would be sent to Rensselaerville’s meetings.

Bill Ryan, a partner in the firm, said he will be attending meetings. He pointed out that his firm specializes in municipal law and has worked with towns like Colonie and Plattsburgh.

"These are annual appointments, so I feel very strongly that we have to try something that sounds and looks and feels better, and, if it isn’t better, that we change it," Nickelsberg told Pine.

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