HOOSICK, N.Y. -- The last town board meeting prior to changes in leadership was no less confrontational on Monday night than residents typically experience.
Outgoing Town Supervisor Keith Cipperly presided over his last meeting in the role, which he has served for two consecutive two-year terms. Longtime board member Mark Surdam will take over as supervisor on Jan 1.
Cipperly led several attempts to encumber the majority of the fund balances currently held by the town in accounts that could not be touched once the new board leadership begins.
Members of the community were loud in their contempt for several of the proposed spending plans, including $793,000 for repairs to the town pool, which was estimated to cost no more than $450,000 during campaign months.
"You're going out the door tomorrow and you're going to authorize $793,000 [in spending]," said resident Dennis Casey. "Do you think we're idiots?"
Surdam was adamant that tying up the majority of town funds prior to the leadership of new administration, and without holding a public hearing on the pool vote, would be wrong.
"This would not be the right thing to do," he said. "You cannot authorize this kind of expenditure at the last meeting before the change. I think we need to discuss this with the public and act more conservatively -- we've got to look at some other options."
Although meeting minutes and records of budgets and account balances are not readily accessible from the town, the estimated town fund balance is $1. 4 million, prior to any proposed spending.
In the end, the vote to proceed with the project based on the estimate from Laberge Engineering was voted down 3-2, with Jeff Wysocki ultimately siding with Surdam.
Cipperly also proposed to set aside $85,000 for improvements to the playground, $200,000 for the purchase of a new truck and $300,000 for the building of a new salt shed, attempting to move each vote ahead without discussion.
"Here's another thing to tie up town funds," said Surdam, when Town Clerk Sue Stradinger continued reading from a stack of proposals.
"You only left $1,200 for me," Cipperly replied, referencing a time prior to his first term when then-outgoing supervisor Marilyn Douglas and other previous members of the board, including Surdam, set aside money during one of their final meetings.
Surdam said the difference was that the former board's actions only tied up the money for one year, rather than indefinitely, as the actions Monday night sought to do. He said his understanding of what the playground needed was drastically different from others' -- that it needs only minor repairs, rather than major ones.
Residents in attendance spoke out against the proposed spending for the playground, stating that setting aside money for unknown repairs was not fiscally responsible.
Village Board member Bob Ryan was also in attendance, and said he was against what the board was trying to do at the last minute.
"You're not talking," said Cipperly, attempting to silence him. When asked by Ryan to repeat himself, Cipperly repeated, "You're actually not talking." A response which elicited boos from the audience.
Ultimately, plans to set aside funds for the playground passed, as did budgeting for the new truck. The building of a salt shed did not pass.
After going into executive session to discuss "personnel issues," the board returned and voted to proceed with a criminal investigation. Although not officially named by members of the board at Monday night's meeting, officials have been discussing what they termed an "unauthorized" purchase of rock salt earlier this month by a town employee.
William Shiland III will assume the role of highway superintendent Jan. 1, and currently works for the highway department. According to town officials, Shiland purchased one hundred tons of rock salt for town use at a cost of $5,743.08 on Dec. 19.
In email correspondence with members of the board, current Highway Superintendent Louis Schmigel said he did not received the annual state contract through which the town typically purchases its supply of approximately 1,000 tons of salt, and was in talks with Scott Gallerie, the superintendent of highways for Rensselaer County, "in figuring out what could be done about the fact that I was not notified and the contract had been closed by the supplier." Schmigel said the then found out that Shiland had already made a partial road salt purchase from the supplier, at an increased cost of $11 per ton, due to the fact that the purchase was not made earlier in the year.
Cipperly's response, also by email, stated that Shiland had no authority to make the purchase over the "real" highway superintendent (Schmigel, who will spend his last day in the role on New Years Eve) and that the town would not pay for the charges.
Shiland was in attendance at the meeting on Monday, although he was not addressed by members of the board. When asked about the purchase after the meeting, Shiland said the town was completely out of road salt previously in the month and at a time when it was needed.
"They're trying to leave me without any salt to put down, the roads aren't going to be safe to drive on," said Shiland, who said the town has already used the partial supply he purchased on behalf of the residents, and estimates there is currently only enough remaining salt to go over each road within town boundaries once.
"There won't be any way to get salt until after the New Year," said Shiland.
"I don't know what I'm going to do." Temperatures are projected to be below freezing throughout the upcoming week, with heavy snows in the forecast, according to the National Weather Service.
Board member-elect, David Sutton replied to the email thread by admonishing members of the current board. "You have an obligation to the public for their safety," said Sutton. "God forbid someone be injured or killed due to your suggested, deliberate neglect. How much lower do you want to sink?"
Sutton continued, "I, personally, am grateful that someone had the decency and courage to do the right thing."
At Monday's meeting, Cipperly said of his time on the board, "I had a lot of fun, I'm also glad to be done."
He is scheduled to face charges of official misconduct related to fraud at the Pittstown Town Court on Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. unless further conflicts of interest arise. The proceedings were already rescheduled once, following the Hoosick Town Court's recusal of the case.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the town board is set to take place on Mon., Jan. 13 at 7 p.m.
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