Middletown passes budget for 2013

By Geoff Samuels
Town of Middletown taxpayers will face a two-and-a-half percent property tax increase when they receive their 2013 town and county tax bills in January.

At the November 13 meeting of the Middletown Town Board, the 2013 preliminary budget, as put forth at the November 7 public hearing, was unanimously adopted. Through a $53,450 savings in health insurance, a $10,000 decrease in interest payments on the Arkville Water District bond, and a $10,000 cut in the highway department’s machinery and equipment expenditures, a property tax increase of 2.5 percent was set.

The board had originally proposed an increase of 5.4 percent. By taking into account exclusions that are allowed for the Town of Middletown, the town actually had a 2.6 percent tax cap for this year, thus the budget squeaks in under the cap.

Middletown Supervisor Marge Miller said, referring to proposed but unadopted cuts such as a $2,000 cut in payments to the MARK Project and the elimination $500 for possible celebration expenditures, “I like the budget as it is…I wanted this budget to reflect my first year and…the things that I value for the community going forward…this is what I stand for.”

Transfer Station fees
Deliberations about how much the town’s transfer station should be charging commercial garbage haulers occupied a major portion of Tuesday evenings’ meeting. In an effort to adjust the fees that haulers pay to better reflect the service they are getting, the board took on the task of hashing out a new law, Local Law #6, which will replace the existing Local Law #2 of 2009.

The problem was to first decide on how to delineate a big truck from a small one. With the help of Transfer Station Manager Roger Davis and board member Jake Rosa, a figure of five tons gross vehicle weight (GVW) was provisionally adopted to represent the dividing line between the two, with Rosa advising the board that a commercial “compactor” truck weighs in at about 15 tons when empty.

Payment options
It was also proposed that $600 rather than $1,000 should suffice as a yearly fee for the small hauler, while $2,400 seemed like an appropriate amount for large trucks. Board member Brian Sweeney thought that charging the haulers on an installment basis would make it easier for them to handle the extra costs, while Deputy Supervisor Mike Finberg thought that method of collection would be too much of a burden on the town. It was subsequently agreed that haulers would be given a three-month window, from the beginning of January to the end of March, to make their payments.

Yet another issue surfaced when, in response to Finberg’s question concerning what types of plastics should be put into the recycle bin, Davis exclaimed “My biggest problem is people are putting everything under the sun that’s plastic (into the recycle bin)… it’s basically bottles and cans, your kitchen plastics and stuff…not chairs and everything else. People are even putting in pots and pans which should go into the metal bin.”

Methods to try to make the public more aware of proper “recycle bin etiquette” such as displaying photographs or even using actual examples of acceptable plastics were put forth by members of the board, but at that point the project was tabled for further discussion at the next Middletown Workshop scheduled for December 4.

New assessor appointed
The board voted unanimously to appoint Terry Marks as chairman of the town’s board of assessors. Mrs. Marks will replace her husband, Gary, who has resigned from his position. Mrs. Marks has lengthy experience as a tax appraiser and the board agreed that she is well-qualified for the position.

There was a discussion about any possible conflict of interest with the appointment, but Supervisor Miller said there is no conflict under state law, since the spouses will not be serving at the same time.

Last month, the board voted to appoint Margaretville resident Dave Goodchild to fill the assessor’s position vacated by the resignation of Michelle Shamro. Mr. Goodchild is a longtime area contractor.

Furnace issues
Due to flooding of the town hall building’s furnace, which is now located in the basement, Supervisor Miller has applied for an NYSEG grant of $41,000 for a new furnace to be located on the main floor. The old furnace is too big to move. At the suggestion of board member Rosa, it was decided that the installation of a multi-fuel or “bio-mass” furnace should at least be considered.

Although, according to Miller, the NYSEG grant would not cover that type of installation, she added that the town already has a $35,000 FEMA resilience grant that can be spent “anyway we want.” Both Miller and Rosa agreed to do further research on the project with Finberg adding, “it’s the right time to keep looking.” Miller also said she thought five or six buildings in Delaware County were already being heated by alternative fuels.