Town officials see nothing but rising costs in Benton

Loujane Johns

Finding ways to stretch the dollar and cut costs is something everyone is trying to do.  With the uncertainty of state funding looming large over counties, towns and villages, boards are planning ahead for the coming year.

Benton Supervisor Bob Clark told the board at the Dec. 10 meeting he has been “shopping around” for fuel quotes for 2009.  Some dealers, because of the price fluctuations, will not give a quote this early, Clark says.  He told the members state bid may be the way to go.

The same holds true for Highway Superintendent Jeff Mann.  He said road material suppliers are not ready to quote either.  He also announced the bad news, “The CHIPS (Consolidated Highway Improvement Program) amount from the state is being reduced to the 2006 level.”  Benton’s amount will be reduced by $16,000.

Other cost reduction measures were included in the agenda:

• LAW BOOKS: Clark told the board that every year a new set of law books for the assessor, justice and code enforcement officer cost about $900.  He has been contacted by a company that can furnish the information on line for about $600.  The board agreed to have Clark research using this company.

• HEALTH INSURANCE:  Clark said there had been wide-spread publicity that Blue Cross policies had gone up 9.5 percent this year.  The figure, he said is now closer to 16.5 percent.  The board had planned for a 12 percent increase in the 2009 budget.  “A change is too late for 2009, but in the coming year we might want to take a closer look.”  Clark asked Councilwoman Becky Jensen to investigate alternatives.

• OFFICE: Work being done on remodeling the justice court is almost complete.  Money was received from a state justice grant for the project.

• WIND:  A check was received from Empire State Wind Energy for re-reimbursement of legal fees connected with preliminary windfarm work.  Clark said representatives will be setting a date for a casual briefing in late December or early January to give an update of the proposed project.

• AUDIT:  Councilman Dick Harper and Jensen reported on an audit they were asked to conduct of the Benton Town Justice Court.  Jensen said they learned a lot and asked lots of questions.  Both agreed the audit went well.  They termed the four recommendations they made, as “minor.”  Copies will be forwarded to the state.

• SENIORS: The Benton Senior Citizens notified the town that they will not be using the town hall for meetings January through March.  Meetings will resume in April.

• DRUG TESTING: Mann told the board Finger Lakes Health (Occupational Health Services) will no longer perform the DOT required random drug testing for employees. Mann said several area highway departments and businesses have decided to use HealthWorks Occupational Medicine Program in Farmington, associated with Thompson Health.  The program will do worksite testing.  The board all voted in favor.

• PHONES: Clark told the board he had a proposal from Trilata to refurbish the old office phone system or to upgrade to a new system.  He asked if the board wanted to pursue this any further.  Jensen asked Clark to also check with another supplier for a comparison quote.

• SUB-DIVISION: A public hearing for a sub-division law was set for the Jan. 14, 2009 meeting.

• BUDGET:  A resolution was passed for small budget modifications to balance the year-end budget.

• WATER: Clark discussed a letter received from the Village of Penn Yan about recent past year audits.  A credit will be issued to Benton in the amount of $1698 for overpayment to be applied to their account.

• LEGISLATOR REPORT: County Legislator Tim Dennis attended the meeting.  He said the three District II legislators have been trying to cover the meetings of each town they represent.  He asked Town Clerk Bobbi Wolfe if she could mail minutes and agendas to the three. She agreed.

Dennis related that Assessor Randy Deal gave a report to the Legislative Finance Committee on assessment in the county. The state has asked the counties to look into centralized assessment.

“I don’t think this county needs to do this (centralize).  We are in a good situation with our assessors.  The county is not interested in taking over assessment as long as it’s going so well,” Dennis stated.

Clark agreed,”I think we like home rule.”