Supervisor's illness slows Shandaken 2014 reorganization
By Jay Braman Jr.
Illness sidelined the newly reelected Supervisor in Shandaken on January 6, making tough going for the remainder of the town board charged with setting up the government for the year 2014.
Each year in January towns must establish a variety of things ranging from what time meetings are held and which bank to use to more critical elements such as appointing people to specific jobs. This is all done at a reorganization meeting like the one held Monday night at town hall.
All items are prepared in advance by the town supervisor, who then brings everything to the town board for passage.
While things usually smoothly at such sessions, without Supervisor Rob Stanley there, questions about some of the resolutions he proposed, went unanswered.
The appointment of Police Chief James McGrath as the town’s Social Services Officer was tabled by the board after lots of discussion as to the whether it was appropriate to have a police officer in that position.
The Social Services Officer, historically, has been a sort of locally based liaison between town residents in need of assistance and the Ulster County Department of Social Services. The officer would assist residents in applying for such benefits as heating assistance, food stamps, and Medicaid.
The job, formerly held by Pine Hill resident Eve Smith, was to carry an annual salary of almost $6,000 but in the final budget talks during the fall, that salary was cut sharply to an even $1,000 for the year 2014.
Stanley’s plan at first, according to Deputy Supervisor Vince Bernstein, was to take on the position himself and make the duties of Social Services Officer a part of the supervisor’s responsibilities.
No one knew Monday night why that was changed to giving the job to Police Chief McGrath, but it was not a popular plan.
Not the right choice
Board member Faye Storms appeared to want to consider someone other than a police officer for the job, noting that while campaigning in the fall, she spoke to many individuals, particularly senior citizens, that need assistance but complained that they don’t how to go about getting it or even who to call. Storms said that, for the most part, such folks are scared and want someone to listen to them. A police officer, she said, might not be the best person for that task.
“Police…that’s power,” she said.
Board member Tim Malloy agreed, adding that if someone had had a previous run in with local law enforcement, they may be afraid to go to that same department for help.
Some audience members weighed in as well, with town resident Kathy Nolan urging the board to “be careful” with a police officer in the role of social services officer.
Resident Dennis Frano, a former town board member, said that having a police officer, as Social Services Officer would cut down on “welfare fraud.”
The matter is expected to be considered at the February meeting of the town board.