Notes on the Town Board Workshop Meeting 3/17/2014
The meeting was held in an informal manner with Supervisor Joel Craig, Board members Don Westmore, Mike Mortenson and Matthew Phelan present. Andrea Dunn was absent.
The propose of the meeting was to give the Board members an opportunity to discuss issues that the Town faces and that would benefit from a more informal give and take among the Board members and the interested public. About 15 people were in the audience.
There was a presentation by Patrick Manning, a representative of Viridian Energy, His company focuses on renewable energy sources as a way to provide a mix of power sources that ensure long-term low costs to communities. Here in Columbia County he says, 75% of the communities have moved to Veridian. However, at this point the present provider that Germantown uses is offering a price slightly lower than theirs. However he thinks that their fluctuation in price may still make his company competitive. He believes his company’s position as a provider of green energy and its long-term guarantee of low pricing will offer benefits to the Town.
Ellen Epstein asks how one is to compare the prices among providers in a meaningful way. He provides a website that compiles pricing information for consumers: [website in my notes cannot be accessed–KA]
The Board comments that the Town has already taken steps through energy audits and changing to LED lights and the installation of the solar panels on the roof of the pavilion as demonstration that the town is mindful of energy efficiency and will continue to take steps in that direction.
Ellen Epstein makes a presentation about the establishment of Town Environmental Advisory Council. After seeing the level of interest shown at the presentation of the report to the public about the Estuary Natural resources inventory by the Department of Environmental Protection, she hopes to see the town establish an EAC, as is provided for in town Public Law. The EAC would undertake to do research and issue reports to the Town Board whenever there is an environmental issue that needs to be worked on. The EAC can do such work for the Planning Board, the Parks department and the Highway Department whenever needed, such as identifying the most valuable and most vulnerable natural resources that might need zoning protection, examination of groundwater conditions, invasive insects—and plants– identification, and the most cost effective alternatives to using rock salt for icy roads. The EAC has no authority but can serve the needs of the town. Their reports can be helpful in obtaining grants. Don Westmore asks how hard is it to find residents who have the necessary skills to do such research? Ellen says that is no need for members to have professional level skills but rather they need to have the interest and the willingness to spend the time to devote to specific projects. She says there are other communities that have EACs and the County has the Environmental Management Council. These organizations offer great resources to help any newly formed EAC, including websites that share information and references for researching. Would the Town have to set up a budget line for an EAC? Initially a small cost that could be for such things as printing maps and sending members to Conferences. The EAAC could embark on more extensive work only if the Board would pass a resolution to fund an individual project that it approved.
Mary Beth Bianconi, Senior Project Manager of Delaware Engineering PC, www.delawareengineering.com/ made a presentation about solutions for the Sewer plant’s dilemma. The Town has been under an order from the DEC for repair and/or renovation of our system, and time is running out on their willingness to delay a potentially drastic enforcement order. She makes the case for dealing with the problem with a repair/upgrade/replacement effort after a comprehensive study by their firm to determine the proper solution. This is a large company with a lot of expertise in dealing with municipal sewer issues and, importantly, with providing a lot of know-how through the complicated state and national funding possibilities She warns that band-aid repairs or staged repairs or replacement is very costly in the long run and funding the whole project with new technologies is more likely to attract low interest loan programs of grants. If they embarked on a comprehensive study right away the DEC will see this as a sign that progress has been undertaken by the town and will hold of on any potential fines for non-compliance. The Town Board members –and the members of the public — were definitely engaged by the presentation and further discussion will be finalized as soon as possible in order to avoid harsh steps from the DEC. Jerry Smith says, “We can’t kick the can down the road anymore!”
Sue Raab and jerry Smith discussed the urgent need to get more recognition for Germantown’s Historic Parsonage. They discussed the problem of getting listed on the various brochures for tourists as a destination. They want to highlight its location between Clermont and Olana as a great stopping point for visitors in the area. They may try to link up with the Library’s historic materials and the exhibit of photos in the lobby of Town hall as a sort of unit for visitors. The Board will mull some options to help in this effort.
Kay Abraham spoke about the need to pursue enhancement of the waterfront as a worthwhile effort, along with further development and promotion of walking trails and the creation of a Biking Tour Map to encourage Germantown as a destination for tourists.
Kay also spoke about the situation of uncertainty that hangs over the School. What can the Town do to anticipate any economic fallout if the school is not fully used in the future because of State action to consolidate, or to make other changes in the District? Both Janet Crawford and Sue Raab said there were action groups already grappling with school issues and they thought that any state moves could be delayed through the efforts of parents and these groups. Generally the Board members and the audience seemed to feel the school system was secure for a good while into the future. Joel said that he and Sue Brown (the School Superintendent) have plans to meet to discuss the overall situation.
Kay asked about what the Town was considering to do about the now expired moratorium on “Fracking and related activities”. Joel says they feel that it is best now to wait to see the outcome of the DEP’s environmental report and see what action the State takes after that. Since we are not in the real target area for Fracking (the Marcellus Shale deposit) we here will have time to respond once State decisions occur.
I left at 8:50 PM with the meeting coming to an end minutes after….but any organized discussion had basically ended.
To the best of my note-taking ability
Kay Abraham 537-5404