New government draws crowd to Andes meeting

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By Pauline Liu
For the second month in a row, the Andes Town Board meeting drew a remarkable, standing room only crowd. Residents turned out in force for last Tuesday afternoon’s meeting to see what one woman in the audience described as “the new government” at work.

The crowd is apparently fascinated to watch the dynamics, as the two new town board members, Tom Hall and Wayland “Bud” Gladstone and the new town clerk, Kimberly Tosi, get down to business. All three took office with the start of the year. 

What the audience of over 30 people witnessed was an effort by town officials to review how their money is spent. Town Bookkeeper Meg Hungerford gave a report on the town’s finances. In particular, she discussed what she called, “the critical state of the highway fund.”

Depleted by flood
She pointed out that efforts to repair the damage created by Tropical Storm Irene last August has taken a toll on the highway fund. “The highway fund has gone from $200,000 to $50,000,” said Hungerford. “The ongoing FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) events have put us in this position,” she added.

The good news is that Andes recently received a reimbursement check from FEMA for approximately $98,000 worth of flood-repair work. However, Highway Superintendent Mike McAdams later explained that the money will go back into the general fund and not the highway fund. 

Andes Supervisor Marty Donnelly expects the town to receive many more checks from FEMA. “There’s $377,000 outstanding,” said Supervisor Donnelly. “That’s what they (FEMA) owes us.”  In taking stock of the situation, he addressed the crowd.

“You heard a lot, but it’s not all bad,” he said. “The simple solution for cash flow is to raise taxes, but the town board is not going to be in the mood to raise taxes on people. It’s tough enough,” he added.

It’s not that bad
While the supervisor agrees that “the highway fund is in a position that it needs money,” he told the News that he believes the balance is now higher than $50,000. 

Meanwhile, the highway department is seeking funding for some of its newest projects through a state program called the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS). “There is $442,000, which is available for the March payment and Mike (McAdams) cannot will-nilly spend it,” said Supervisor Donnelly. “They (CHIPS) have to approve it and they can go from there,” he added. 

Bud Gladstone brought up the subject of buying army surplus vehicles for highway department use. “When we took a look at surplus, there was a D7 Caterpillar bulldozer for $2,500 that was probably worth $10,000 in scrap,” said Gladstone. While the town board agreed that the money is not currently in the budget, the subject prompted some enthusiastic discussion among the board members.

“We did that in Long Island,” said Supervisor Donnelly. “It’s ridiculous. Some of them (army surplus vehicles) have less than 1,000 miles. Mike (McAdams), do a wish list in case something comes up,” he added.

“I already did,” said Superintendent McAdams, which caused some board members to smile. “Make sure there are replacement parts for them too,” said Deputy Supervisor Marty Liddle.  

Benefits were topic
On the subject of benefits for town employees. Supervisor Donnelly explained that Town Clerk Kimberly Tosi was trying to get through to the New York State Health Insurance Plan to find out whether former town employees “are off the bill now.”

“We want to make sure we don’t have anyone on the retirement system and health insurance that shouldn’t be,” he said. The supervisor alluded to someone who was “terminated in January.” Supervisor Donnelly later confirmed for the News that he was referring to former Town Clerk Janis Jacques.

He explained that her policy provided her with coverage for 60 days after the date of her termination and that she is covered through February 29. Jacques was recently hospitalized with pneumonia.

In other news, the town board voted unanimously to raise the fee for dog licenses from $2.50 to $5, after Town Clerk Tosi pointed out that Middletown is charging $5 for dog licenses.