Shandaken weighing Ulster proposal for town to start plowing county roads

By Jay Braman Jr.
There are changes coming in Shandaken.
Monday night was the first night for incoming Supervisor Robert Stanley, the Republican Councilman who defeated former Supervisor Peter DiSclafani at the polls last November. And while the new administration is already shaking things up a bit with a plan to cut back on one town employee’s salary and also make significant changes to the town planning board, it was Stanley’s announcement about the town’s highway department possibly taking over some of the snowplowing chores for Ulster County that seemed to be the biggest change for 2010.
“This is very preliminary,” said Stanley of the snowplowing plan. “It is not a done deal.”
The idea comes from Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, who spelled out the plan Monday to the supervisors of several towns.
The initiative, Hein said, would turn over to participating towns the responsibility of plowing county roads located within those municipalities. The county would pay the towns a set rate, which Hein said would exceed the municipalities’ actual costs, but be less than what it costs the county to provide the service. Eventually, he said, the county would look at possibly reaching agreements with towns for the maintenance of county roads as well.
By dropping some of its services, the county would be able to shrink the size of the department and eliminate positions and therefore save the county money.

Not a new idea
It should be noted that the county already has an agreement with the Town of Hardenburgh, which handles the plowing of county roads within its borders.
Stanley said that, on the surface, it seems like a good idea.
He used Oliverea Road as an example, noting that town trucks travel up the road, with plows raised, just to get to the town-owned roads that are the local highway department’s responsibility.
“Why?” he asked.
The town board will consider the matter further before making any agreement with the county, Stanley said.
Also on Monday, the board voted to dramatically reduce the salary of the director of the town’s museum, despite urging not to do so from both the director and the chair of the museum’s board of directors.
Museum Director Mary Herrmann, who had a budgeted salary of $9,000, saw that dropped to $6,240.
Stanley said the town would like to use the savings to purchase needed equipment for the museum.
But Matt Persons, the chair of the museum’s board of directors, says he has a better plan which involves giving Herrmann back some of what was taken away, and also save on expenses by having Herrmann work at home instead of at the museum, thus saving on heating costs.
While the town board did cut Herrmann’s salary Monday night anyway, Stanley said he and other board members will have a joint meeting with Persons and Herrmann and if a better plan is developed it can put into motion next month.
Lastly, Stanley and rookie councilman Jack Jordan failed to gain majority support for a move to place Charles Frasier in the role of chairman on the town planning board.
Frasier, who is longest seated member of the planning board, suggested that the planning board should choose its own chair. Councilwoman Doris Bartlett agreed, as did councilmen Tim Malloy and Vince Bernstein.
Beth Waterman, who was chair in 2009, saw her term on the board end on December 31.
Rather than reappoint Waterman, the new Stanley Administration will let the planners hold interviews with potential new members and then follow the recommendation that the planners make.