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Hilltown Archives The Altamont Enterprise, October 22, 2009
By Zach Simeone
RENSSELAERVILLE Democratic Councilwoman Marie Dermody is vying for the open supervisor’s post, challenged by Republican Myra Dorman, a former town supervisor and councilwoman herself.
Conservatives Robert Bolte and Marion Cooke, also running on the Republican line, look to take the two open seats on the town board, opposed by the town’s Democratic chairman, John “Jack” Kudlack, and incumbent Democrat Sherri Pine.
This week, candidates were asked to comment on the following issues:
Budget: Last year, Rensselaerville saw close to a half-dozen versions of the budget draft before it was finally approved, and the town board was reprimanded by citizens for being irresponsible in the budget process; town board members often blamed the supervisor, Jost Nickelsberg, being the chief fiscal officer of the town. Nickelsberg, a Republican, is not seeking re-election. A budget advisory committee has been created, but requests for information from the committee have led to conflicting comments from the budget chairwoman and the town board; one side claims the town is trying to hide information; the other claims that the budget committee’s requests are far too time-consuming. What should be done to make sure this year’s budget process goes more smoothly?
Nepotism: Last year, the board passed a code-of-ethics resolution that would ban nepotism, and yet, there are instances of it in town government. Does this code of ethics have any teeth? Should some of these family-related jobs be terminated? How should the town board deal with this?
Communication: The town board has heard complaints from citizens who are generally opposed to how the town highway department is run, condemning the condition of town roads and the work being done to fix them. When this comes up at meetings, the town board defers to the highway superintendent, who is often not present, resulting in a lack of communication between the highway department and the town board. How can the board bridge this gap in communication?
Lot sizes: Last year, Rensselaerville’s newer zoning law was nullified after a grassroots group, Rensselaerville Farmland Protection, sued the town over the new zoning, drawing attention to an inconsistency in the planning. The group won the suit because the town violated the state’s Open Meetings Law by failing to publish a notice of the special meeting where the vote took place. The town’s comprehensive plan called for one dwelling per 20 acres in the town’s agricultural district. But that requirement was not followed when the town board unanimously adopted the new zoning law, which called for just five acres per dwelling, following results of a public survey. What do you think Rensselaerville’s lot sizes should be?
Wind power: Since February, the town’s wind-study committee has been researching the utility of both residential and commercial wind power in town, and the town board recently adopted zoning for the smaller-scale, residential windmills. Do you think there are appropriate sites in Rensselaerville for commercial wind power? Why or why not? What should go into the zoning for these larger turbines?
Civility: Of the four Hilltowns, Rensselaerville’s town board meetings are by far the longest, largely due to the amount of bickering among board members, and interjections from the audience. The town board passed a resolution earlier this year that established rules of order, which set 12 restrictions on audience comments, including a three-minute time limit; the discord of these meetings has been unaffected. Should these meetings be made more civil? If so, how?
After her first term on town board, Democrat Marie Dermody, 61, is running for supervisor. Her family has lived in Rensselaerville since 1958, she said.
Prior to being elected to the town board in January of 2008, Dermody taught for 33 years at West Hurley Elementary School in Ulster County. She is now retired.
“No one can take away from the fact that I do my homework,” Dermody told The Enterprise this week. “I follow through, I don’t come to meetings with bland generalizations, and I’m willing to do whatever needs to be done to move us forward…I think I have people skills. I don’t see anything as black or white; I’m looking for a middle road where we can gain a little and might lose a little.”
Dermody thinks that this year’s budget process is already going more smoothly than last year’s.
“The problem with last year is that it was my first ever budget experience,” Dermody said this week. “Our supervisor never presented us with a tentative budget,” she said of current Supervisor Jost Nickelsberg, “and, not knowing how the process worked, I’m going to take a great deal of the blame for things being chaotic as they were.”
Another cause was that the town’s bookkeeper at that time was not well versed in the municipal budget process, Dermody said.
“I think, this year, I’m far more ready to be active in the process, with or without the supervisor, and without the chaos. We now have a very competent bookkeeper,” Dermody said of Andrea Cornwell, “and I feel very competent myself on the issues.”
The town board recently received a list of recommendations from the budget advisory committee, but the nature of these recommendations differed from what Dermody expected, she said.
“I guess we anticipated them looking at the budget and seeing where we could eliminate big chunks of money, and that’s not what the final report was,” she said. “Many of their recommendations dealt with process. One of their recommendations was to split up the budget into subcategories, and think that makes sense. It can’t hurt, but, by the same token, I’ve done a lot over the last two years to save this town money.”
Dermody takes pride in the town’s voucher policy, which she introduced earlier this year when the town’s finances came under investigation by the offices of Albany County’s comptroller and the district attorney. Residents complained about vouchers that suggested some bills were paid twice, and there was suspicion of foul play.
Dermody is also proud of her involvement in revising the town’s procurement policy, and saving money on the town newsletter, which involved the purchase of a new copy machine that, with its printing and stapling capabilities, allowed the town newsletter to be produced entirely in-house.
A code-of-ethics resolution was passed more than a year ago, also while Dermody was on the town board. If people still see nepotism as an issue, it should be taken up with the board of ethics, she said.
“The code of ethics also instituted a board of ethics,” Dermody went on. “If anybody has a complaint about the way things are running, they have a right to submit an inquiry to the board [of ethics].”
Not one complaint has come before the board of ethics, she said.
“I don’t want to hear that nepotism exists in town if you’re not willing to put the proper steps in motion,” Dermody said. “And, as far as skepticism with if the town board would agree with the determination of the board of ethics, I don’t see why we wouldn’t. We put them in place because we trust their judgment, so, if they come through with a recommendation, I’d see no reason not to support it.”
Dermody also thinks that interdepartmental communication at Town Hall is essentially nonexistent, and she thinks that a more present supervisor at Town Hall would help remedy the problem.
“It seems to me someone or somebody should have the responsibility of indicating to staff members what decisions at a town board meeting affect their department,” said Dermody. “There’s been very little internal communication, and it’s very hard when you have a [supervisor] who is seldom present at town hall. The CEO of any organization needs to be present, and all these issues with communication with the highway department, there is such a conflict of personalities that there is no communication there,” she said, referring to the ongoing series of arguments between Nickelsberg and Highway Superintendent G. Jon Chase; Nickelsberg, a Republican, often gets into verbal scuffles with the Democratic majority on the board.
With regard to lot sizes in town, Dermody said she is waiting to hear the zoning review committee’s recommendations and the comments at the public hearing before she forms an opinion.
“It’s a slow, tedious process, and there’s a lot of paperwork, and a lot of data to go through, and it’s supposed to be a committee of seven,” she said of the zoning review committee. “We’ve had trouble getting a quorum, so we haven’t had as many meetings as we should.”
Dermody is also waiting for recommendations from the wind-study committee on commercial wind power, but she does not see any reason why large-scale wind development would not work in Rensselaerville, she said.
“There are parcels in town that are hundreds of acres,” Dermody said. “You can’t stand in the way of progress, and, as long as that progress doesn’t impede the freedom to live your life in a comfortable way with the surrounding landowners, I don’t know why we couldn’t do that. They’ve done an incredible amount of research for the residential,” she said of the wind-study committee, “and I’m sure they’ll do an equal amount for the commercial. I’d rather see what their efforts produce and then take it from there; I have no preconceived opinion at this point.”
On bringing civility to town board meetings, Dermody said, “I tried that,” suggesting that the rules of order should have served this purpose.
“Board meetings are an opportunity for the town to see how the board conducts town business, and, not that people don’t have the right to state their views and opinions, but they can’t do it to the detriment of our conducting town business,” said Dermody. “Recently they’ve gotten down to a personal level, which is unacceptable as far as I’m concerned.”
Myra Dorman will run for supervisor on the GOP line. In addition to being a former town councilwoman and supervisor, Dorman has designed textiles for 35 years, and teaches textile design at Hudson Valley Community College and Russell Sage. She declined to give her age.
“I have a strong feeling we need some changes in the procedures in government and the way Rensselaerville is going,” Dorman said this week. “We need to have more representation from the whole community, and I don’t see that right now, so I felt someone should step up to the plate. I see things that need to be changed, and I feel very strong about them. I want to see a better government.”
She also wants to see lower taxes, and a general improvement to the condition of town roads, she said.
“I want to see people be able to come to town officials and explain to them what they’re needs are, and I want the officials to listen to them; they cannot be brushed off,” Dorman went on. “Everyone who lives in this town should have their needs considered.”
Dorman added that she would like to see more cooperation between the budget committee and the town board. Council members said recently that they felt in the dark about specifically what work the committee was doing. The committee gave its recommendations to the board at this month’s regular meeting.
“I think the town board needs to sit down with the budget committee, knowing that, when they do sit down with them, they’re going to have to spend a little time straightening out what each group is doing, and figure out how to work together,” Dorman said. “Then, they should sit down with the general public and give their opinions on what is happening. Everybody needs to be heard. We can’t solve everybody’s problems, but we sure can try, and that’s our job.”
Dorman believes that nepotism in town government results from the presence of too many government jobs in a town of Rensselaerville’s size. While she does not think that instances of nepotism in town government should be handled by termination of employment, these jobs should be reconsidered, or “reconstructed,” she said.
“They should be analyzed by the town board, and they should get input from the ethics committee, since that’s their job,” Dorman said. “Both the board and the committee need to do that together, and come to a conclusion. In a small town like this, nepotism is inevitable; we need the people, but we may not need as many as we have now. With so many frivolous jobs, we end up with nepotism, and that has to be corrected.”
Of bridging the communication gap between the town board and the highway department, Dorman said, “We need a highway superintendent that will come to the meetings. Get a superintendent who is tuned into his own job and is doing it.”
Further, she said that the town’s lot sizes should be reconsidered.
“I don’t have a definite size in mind,” Dorman said. “I think there was a lot of confusion with this last time, and I think they need to take a closer look at this and perhaps make some changes; and everybody has to know about it. There’s got to be plenty of time for people to be notified and for the community to examine what the rules are, what’s existing, and how those changes would make a difference.”
Dorman is unsure of whether or not there are appropriate sites in Rensselaerville for commercial wind power sites.
“I sat in on those [wind-study] committee meetings, and I found them very interesting,” said Dorman. “They also left me with a lot of questions that need to be answered before we can do anything about commercial wind power. Some people are afraid of it, some are all for it; it’s a very controversial issue, and I think it needs considerably more study. There’s a lot of effort in the state where people have put up facilities for wind power, and I think we need to study those before we make a final decision.”
Town board meetings need to be more made civil, Dorman went on.
“You make them more civil by the people being more civil, more courteous, [showing] more respect for their neighbors, more respect for their own self, and for their neighbors problems,” she said. “I’d like to ask the voters if they want to make a change, come out and vote. Every single resident can have an effect on the town’s process if they come to vote. If they don’t vote, they haven’t got a right to say anything.”
Robert Bolte, 66, is a longtime resident of Rensselaerville who often speaks up at town board meetings as part of a group of citizen watchdogs.
“We need to win this election to straighten this town out, and get back to people getting along,” Bolte told The Enterprise this week.
Now retired, Bolte is a “licensed electrician by trade,” he said. He used to manage Bryant’s Shopping Center in Greenville.
“I also took care of the apartments they own near the store,” he said, “and I ran a privately owned sewer plant for them; I have my wastewater license.”
Bolte retired when he was 62, and began volunteering for the town in various capacities, including making Town Hall repairs, and driving a bus to take elderly residents to doctor appointments and on shopping trips.
Bolte is also on the town’s budget committee, which provided the town board with a list of recommendations at this month’s town board meeting.
“First, you have to start out with a zero budget,” Bolte said, “which means you start out with nothing, and start adding into it the items that we need. Each department puts in a request for funds and tells the town board why they need those funds. Some of the other recommendations are to the actual spending of the budget. The biggest thing is, when this budget is put together, they go down each line item and check it out and know what they’re talking about, and start adding up as they go.”
He went on, “As I said a year ago, if you have a checkbook, and you got $100 in the bank, you’ve got to keep track so you know when you get to 100; it’s the same with the budget. You can’t say, ‘We’ll deduct from this line item, and we’ll add to this item,’ and then not keep track.”
Bolte also thinks that nepotism in Rensselaerville should come to an end, and that the ethics committee has not been used to its potential.
“I think, starting at the beginning of the year, when whatever board gets elected, they need to appoint people that are not family,” Bolte said this week. “In other words, nepotism needs to come to an end. Today, they should go and get rid of people that are in those positions. I feel that, as new appointments take place in January, and with any hires throughout the year, this needs to be looked at. The ethics committee is only as good as the town board following its recommendations. So far, the ethics committee has not had anything to sink its teeth into,” he said.
Bolte thinks that communication between the town board and highway department needs to improve, as does the highway department’s operation. Once that improvement happens, the town will depend less on state and federal funding, he said.
“The town board does not run the highway department, so you need a good superintendent that’s willing to work with the town board, because the board controls the purse strings of the highway department,” Bolte said. “I think that the town board needs to make sure that we as a town are following the law, and by that I mean when CHIP funds are handed out and someone signs a document saying, ‘These roads will last 10 years,’ and they only last a year, someone needs to be held accountable,” Bolte said, referring to the guidelines of the state’s Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIP), which say that a municipality “must certify that the project is expected to have a useful service life of at least 10 years.”
“And the other thing that is a joke is the FEMA funds,” Bolte said. Each year, the town gets funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which goes into road repairs and cleanup from snowstorms.
“We’ve got people in Louisiana without their homes, and people in real disaster areas, and for FEMA to hand out money to the town of Rensselaerville because we don’t do ditching on our highways, and the water runs down our roads, does not seem to be a rational thing,” Bolte said. “Granted, that is money for Rensselaerville, but, if the ditches were done in the first place, then we wouldn’t need that money, and that money could go to other people in this county that are in worse shape than we are.”
With regard to lot sizes in the town’s zoning law, Bolte does not think his personal opinion is relevant.
“I think, as a board member, I would listen at the public hearing to what the public would say,” he said. “As a town board member, it’s not about your opinion; it’s about what the public would like, and that’s how I’d have to vote.”
He added later, “If we continue to have people have huge lots, we’re going to drive the young people away.”
At this point, Bolte said he is unsure of how appropriate large-scale wind power is for Rensselaerville.
“I did a lot of research on wind power many years ago,” Bolte began. “I don’t think you’ll ever see commercial wind power in Rensselaerville. You need a decent area from housing because of noise, and…unless you can get a wind farm, I don’t think it’s economically feasible for someone to do it. There probably are a few spots in town, I don’t know where they’d be at.”
Bolte said that, while he thinks renewable energy is worth looking into, there are technologies besides wind power that may be better suited to the town’s needs.
“I think the new solar panels are more cost efficient, and the payback will be better than wind power in this area,” he said. “Any of the research I’ve done on wind power, and after talking to people that have windmills, you’re very lucky to break even with the cost of them, and maintenance if you’re going to save energy, you should also be saving money.”
Bolte went on to say that, while windmills don’t bother him visually, the town must consider the sound produced by these machines when it creates its zoning for commercial turbines. For months, the wind-study committee has researched the health effects of sound produced by turbines, and has consulted Daniel Driscoll, a certified sound engineer who sits on the Knox Planning Board, a number of times.
“Certainly, we have to consider the distance from somebody’s home, sound, whether that sound is going to bother anybody anywhere,” Bolte said. “Nobody wants to hear those things continually. I think they’re beautiful, I don’t have any problem as far as the aesthetics of them. But, if you’re going to listen to something going ‘swish, swish, swish’ all the time, it’s going to drive you nuts. The other question is, is the land around it going to be affected later if someone wants to build on it?”
Bolte went on to say that the chaotic nature of town board meetings results from clashing personalities.
“I also think that the meetings need to be run more,” Bolte said. “What I mean by that is, we have audience comments, and the town board needs to answer those questions they are the taxpayers but the town board needs to be more orderly. At the same time, remember that the five people sitting on that board are not the most intelligent in every subject, and, if we’ve got expertise in our community that’s willing to step forward and help out with a certain thing, I think we need to reach out to them.”
This lack of knowledge in certain areas has led to mistakes in repairing the town hall, Bolte went on.
“They put out a bunch of stuff for bids on the building, but they knew nothing of what they were talking about,” he said. “In doing so, the problem with the light fixtures being wired up wasn’t addressed in the bid. So, they’re going to wire the grid up it’s wired up already. The light fixtures are the problem; they don’t have safety wires on them. And on the roof, the plywood isn’t fastened down. Why talk about the shingles? Something’s got to be done so the plywood gets fastened down so it doesn’t bust up through the shingles. There is no building expertise up there, so they need to reach out to someone.”
Now, Bolte hopes to contribute some of his own expertise as a town board member.
Conservative Marion Cooke, 56, is making her first run for town board on the Republican line. Cooke is a lifelong resident of Rensselaerville, and is currently on the town’s budget advisory committee.
She has worked at G & H Lumber in Greenville for nearly 10 years, and used to own the Westwinds diner.
“I’ve always been interested in town government,” Cooke told The Enterprise this week. “I’ve been going to board meetings, and, last year, what made me decide to run was the budget, when they were looking at a 40-percent tax increase.”
Cooke thinks that this year’s budget will have fewer hitches, partly due to the town’s new bookkeeper, Andrea Cornwell.
“Andrea is very experienced,” Cooke said. “At the last town board meeting, she did a five-year lookup, and recommended for the town board what certain budget figures should be.”
The board recently adopted a policy that required the budget committee to get town-board approval on all requests for information relating to budget work in many cases, these requests were for vouchers. Joli Pizzigati, who chairs the committee, has said that this policy slows its progress.
“We’ve kind of worked around that,” Cooke said. “You almost have to look at the vouchers to see if there’s any place to have any savings, and, in order to get the vouchers, they have to be copied, and that takes time. I don’t think it slows us down, it’s just time-consuming.”
While Cooke feels nepotism should not exist in town government, she is unsure of how it should be dealt with.
“It’s hard to terminate people already in there,” Cooke said. “I don’t believe in nepotism. I don’t think a town board member should vote on stuff that affects their family. They got a ruling from the attorney general. I don’t think this town board can deal with it. There’s too much black and white you’ve got the Democrats on one side saying ‘black,’ and the Republicans on the other saying ‘white,’ and there’s no meeting in the middle; there’s no compromise. They created the board of ethics, but I don’t think they’ve had anything in front of them yet. But at least that’s a start.”
Cooke had no comment on how to improve communication between the town board and the highway department, but agreed with the sentiment that town roads need improvement.
“While I was out campaigning, there’re two things we were hearing about: the conditions of the roads, and the taxes,” Cooke said. “Everyone had an increase in their school tax bills. People are getting so they can’t afford any more taxes and any more waste of money. We’ve put a lot of money on our roads, and they’re not lasting the 10 years they should be lasting. This time of year, they’re not too bad, but in the spring there are some you can barely get up with four-wheel drive.”
On lot sizes, Cooke said she will wait to hear the public’s thoughts, declining to express an opinion on the subject.
“If I’m elected to the town board, I’m going to listen to both sides of the argument, and the public hearing will decide whether they approve the zoning,” she said.
Cooke has mixed feelings on bringing commercial wind power to Rensselaerville.
“I know everyone likes the beauty of the town,” Cooke said. “My husband and I went to Lowville and saw the windmills up there. They didn’t seem to make a lot of noise. We sure have enough wind, but I don’t think it’s an appropriate use here in town.”
She added that one of the best things about Rensselaerville is the physical beauty of its rural landscapes.
“I don’t think they should ruin our scenic area,” Cooke said. “There aren’t a lot of places to put them that don’t ruin the views in the town, and I think one of the biggest assets in town is the views.”
One way to make town board meetings more civil, she said, is to be more productive at work meetings.
“I think, if the town board would sit at a work meeting and actually discuss stuff, it would take away some of that dissent in front of the public at the regular meetings,” Cooke said. “They don’t ever work things out. You can get your thoughts across at work meetings, maybe reach a compromise. I think it’s great when the public does interrupt them with constructive criticism. I don’t like the name-calling and all that, but someone in the audience may have more knowledge on something than they do.”
Whether or not she gets elected, the town board will have to work as a team to move forward, she said.
“There have been so many arguments,” Cooke said, “that I can’t think of one thing that’s been accomplished in town lately.”
Democrat Sherri Pine, 51, is running for her second consecutive four-year term on town board.
Outside of her work in town government, she works at the Office of the Albany County Clerk. She worked at Bryant’s Shopping Center in Greenville for 25 years before that.
Pine’s family has lived in Rensselaerville since the 1700s, and her grandmother owned a farm in town since 1910, she said. Born in Coal Springs, Pine’s parents moved back to Rensselaerville when she was nearly 2 years old.
“I’m a strong advocate for the seniors and the youth in the town,” Pine told The Enterprise this week.
She recalled some of her accomplishments on town board.
“The first two years, the only thing I was able to do was get the [information technology] system in,” Pine said. “The next two years, we got the majority on the board. We’ve been working on the aggressive negative parts of the board, trying to get it calmed down,” she said, referring to Supervisor Jost Nickelsberg, the more talkative half of the two-person Republican minority on the board; Councilman Robert Lansing, a former town supervisor, is the other Republican.
“The waste-oil furnace, I’ve been fighting right along, because I didn’t want it till all the steps were in, and now, of course, we’re selling it,” Pine said. “I never had a problem with the waste oil, I just wanted it to be put in with the right steps, but it never happened that way.”
Pine also thinks that this year’s budget process is already going more smoothly than last year.
“Jost would print it out and send it to everyone before we had even finished it for that night,” she said of Nickelsberg. “Now, we have a projector that projects it up on the wall as we’re working on it, and the audience can see exactly what we’re doing. It gives us the percentages right as we’re doing it. Marie [Dermody] and Andrea [Cornwell] have done a great job with this budget program; it’s amazing. Every year now, all we have to do is punch the numbers in and it gives us everything we need to know and a five-year average.”
Additionally, the budget committee’s work has been helpful, she said.
“The budget committee was able to put the whole thing together and say, ‘Look at this first before you look at that,’ and we have taken on some of their suggestions,” Pine said.
Of nepotism in town government, Pine referred to her marriage to Assessor Jeffry Pine.
“Technically, the only thing that would be a problem with nepotism would be me and my husband, because his salary directly affects me, so, when it comes to voting on his salary, I will step aside I’ll recuse myself,” Pine said. “Other than that, in the highway, whoever’s in that position can pick his clerk,” she went on, referring to Democratic Highway Superintendent G. Jon Chase, whose wife, Joyce, is his clerk. Their son, Gary Chase, is on the town board.
“Same with Judge [Victor] La Plante and his wife,” Pine went on. “People get along better with their wives, and they can work hand-in-hand. People can pick their clerks; they don’t pick their salary, the board does. And, with the Chase family, the services they have given the town of Rensselaerville since farther back than I can remember have been immense.”
On improving communication between the town board and the highway department, Pine had no comment.
With regard to lot sizes, Pine said, “The comprehensive plan doesn’t state one house per 20 acres; it states one house per 20-acre density. So, you could have 100 acres, put five houses on one-acre lots, and leave the rest open. That’s how the density requirement comes in.” But, she said, she will wait for the recommendations of the zoning review committee before deciding on an appropriate lot size.
“The zoning laws they’re working on them,” Pine said. “I can’t say anything other than that. I sit on the town board with an open mind. My personal beliefs are put aside at the time I’m sitting up there.”
Pine went on to say that she has not given much consideration to the possibility of bringing commercial wind power to Rensselaerville.
“I really haven’t thought about that right at the moment,” she said. “I know it all depends on you need a constant wind; you can’t just stick a windmill anywhere and let it work, so, that all depends on where and what is blocking residences, so, I’m not going to get into that right now.”
Pine does feel that town board meetings could be made more civilized.
“When the people in the audience have questions, they should direct it to the board only, not to other people in the audience,” Pine said. “Other than that, it all depends on who’s sitting on the board. Right now, we have a supervisor that makes a lot of that problem happen.”
John “Jack” Kudlack, 66, is chairman of Rensselaerville’s Democratic Committee. He retired in May from the New York State Department of Corrections.
“Since I’m retired, I figure I have more time to devote to the town, and that’s what made me run for the council seat,” Kudlack told The Enterprise this week.
A registered nurse since 1993, Kudlack was a nurse administrator at the New York State Department of Correctional Services. In those years, he ran the medical department at the Mid-Orange Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison in Warwick, N.Y., and also worked at Green Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison in Coxsackie; at Coxsackie Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison; and at the central offices for the department of correctional services, located on Central Avenue in Albany.
Before Kudlack was a nurse, he was a police officer in Greenville and Coxsackie. He also spent four years as a town judge in Greenville.
“So, I spent 20 years putting people in prison, and then I was in there taking care of them,” Kudlack said. He also served in the United States Army for 27 years.
The confusion surrounding the budget process, Kudlack said, can be attributed mostly to Supervisor Jost Nickelsberg.
“I think one of the problems is the town supervisor is not really paying attention to what’s going on,” Kudlack said. “I understand he’s a lame-duck supervisor, but he doesn’t want to pay attention to what’s going on. He’s the chief fiscal officer, and he’s the one who has to take control and know what’s going on. I think the town board needs to sit down and see what has to be done in favor of the people in the town, what they want to do as far as the budget committee. We’re supposed to be elected officials that do what the people want. And I think you have to give the budget a comprehensive review to see what’s going on with it and do the right thing, but everybody has to be involved.”
Kudlack went on to say that, while nepotism should be avoided, there are some cases where it is inevitable.
“People shouldn’t be appointing relatives to positions, and I understand the board of ethics doesn’t really have a lot of teeth to do something about it, but they’ll certainly bring it out to the public,” Kudlack said. “I don’t believe in handing jobs to your family if you’re an elected official, but sometimes it may be necessary if you can’t find someone qualified, but it doesn’t look good in the eyes of the public.”
Closing the communication gap between the town board and highway superintendent could be solved by the highway superintendent’s presence at meetings, Kudlack said, but he thinks that most critics of G. Jon Chase have their own agendas.
“They don’t like Jon Chase, and they’re trying to put a knife in his back,” Kudlack said. “It’s the same people there all the time, with the same complaints.”
Regarding lot sizes, Kudlack thinks the last zoning law was on target.
“I think the five-acre lot is adequate for the town,” said Kudlack. “One problem in Rensselaerville is that a lot of the land doesn’t perk it doesn’t absorb fluid, liquid, so it requires people to put these sand trap filters in through their septic systems, and that takes up a lot more area, and a lot more land.”
Kudlack met recently with Rensselaerville Farmland Protection. The group wanted to know his stance on preserving the town’s open space.
“I’d like to see the agricultural land not really be developed,” Kudlack said this week. “I grew up on a farm in Westerlo. As a young boy, my parents and grandparents had a dairy farm, and I don’t want to see the town get totally developed.”
Farmland Protection had mentioned to Kudlack a state incentive that would pay farmers to keep their land and not sell it to developers, he said.
“I just don’t think Rensselaerville can absorb another development,” Kudlack said. “There’re a lot of places that’s very hard to get water, and then what do you do with all the sewage in the ground? It ends up polluting the aquifers and we end up having nothing.”
Kudlack does not think there is room in Rensselaerville for commercial wind-power facilities.
“I think, if an individual wants to put a thing up on their property, as long as they follow the zoning for the tower, that’s fine,” Kudlack said. “But I’m not in favor of commercial development for it. Shell was looking at this for its own gain, and that’s not fair to the people of the town of Rensselaerville…I’ve been out to California, and I’ve seen the wind farms, and they produce a lot of electricity, but they’re noisy and they’re an eyesore.”
Kudlack also thinks that town board meetings should be made more civil, which will happen once Nickelsberg is no longer supervisor, he said, adding that audience comments should only be allowed at the beginning of the meeting.
“Then, it should stop, and then the board should discuss what it needs to discuss,” Kudlack said. “And the bickering needs to stop, because we don’t get anything done this way. People should be able to say what they want to say, but it should happen at the beginning, and then that needs to be it.”