Jerusalem vote stirs questions

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

The Jerusalem town board had more than its usual share of controversy at their March 16 meeting.

The quickness of the vote to choose an engineering firm for the municipal services agreement caught many by surprise.

Council member Michael Folts informed the board that he would be voting on this matter rather than abstaining. A motion was made and seconded to approve Larson Design Group based in Williamsport, Pa.

Supervisor Daryl Jones called for the vote without asking for discussion. It passed 3-2 with yeas from Folts, Max Parson, and Neil Simmons, and nays from Jones and Ray Stewart.

Jones then told the board he was against Larson DG because they represent and will continue to represent 19 gas corporations.

Audible gasps were heard in the audience. Stewart described it as “Putting the fox in charge of the hen house.”

Simmons said that was his point — he did want the fox in charge of the hens because they would have the information other firms would not.

Folts said, “We don’t have to go around the table explaining our votes.”

From the audience, Yates County Legislator Doug Paddock said “This could have all been discussed before the vote, but it’s already done now.”

Resident Dick Ackerman then asked Folts if it was true that his son worked for Larson DG, to which the answer was yes. “How is that not a conflict of interest?” asked Ackerman, a former council member.  

Folts said he had consulted with attorney Bailey and asked him to answer. Bailey said that since Folts’ son is not a minor, there is no legal conflict of interest. Had Folts abstained, there would have been a tie and the resolution defeated.

In discussion of the town’s time clock policy for hourly employees, the talk soon strayed out into territory better left inside an executive session.

Long-time town assessor Alan Comstock agreed to stay on as an appointed temporary assessor after he retired until the town can decide upon a qualified replacement.

He has told Jones that he will fill out time sheets for the hours he works, but Jones insists that the rules say Comstock must punch in and out at the town’s time clock. Comstock refuses to do so, and Jones asked the board what they think should be done. Parson said that if Jones wanted to, he could write Comstock up for insubordination, start disciplinary action, and dismiss him.  

Paddock again spoke up, suggesting that since it involved an employee issue, “This might be something the board should discuss in executive session.”

Jones said he was talking about the time clock rule and that Parson had brought up disciplinary action, to which Parson contended thatJones had asked what should be done. The argument then reverted back to Comstock again. Paddock said over them, “I tried to give you guys a way out.”  The board then agreed to take up the matter in executive session.

Another hourly employee question became rather heated.

Highway Superintendent Robert Payne asked the board to consider letting him pay overtime to part-time employees when they work over the standard workday of eight or ten hours, depending on the season.

Jones declared that the rules state overtime can only be paid over 40 hours per week. Payne explained his point by describing the long hours his part-timers have to plow roads during snow storms.

“If I can’t offer him overtime, what’s to keep him from parking the truck after eight hours and going on to his other job?”

 Town Clerk Sheila McMichael then asked, “What about my part-time deputy during meetings? If we do it for one, we should do it for all.”

Jones repeated, “The code book says 40 hours. If you want to keep them on the job, you could pay more per hour.” Payne and Jones continued to disagree until it was suggested that the board examine the possibility of amending the rule.

Other business on the board’s agenda included:

•VOTING? MACHINES:  After hearing a report from the Board of Elections on possible changes and the disposal of the old lever voting machines, Simmons brought up the election budget and Jerusalem’s “disproportionate share” of it.

He compared the town’s costs to Milo’s: per voter is $30 vs. $13, and per polling place is $13,000 vs. $8,000.

County Legislature Chairman Taylor Fitch, a Jerusalem resident, happened to be in attendance, and said that town’s costs were determined by assessment rather than by population, but that the legislature may consider changing that.

• INSURANCE:  John Kuehn, a representative from Sprague Insurance in Corning, presented a New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal quote that could save the town $1750 from last year.

• HIGHWAY: Robert Payne reported that the Highway Department is on budget, having gotten a good supply of salt at Himrod early on. He also suggested that the town send an official thank you to Lawrence McMinn for augering the post holes for the new sander-box bays free of charge.

• CONTRACT:?Town Engineer Wayne Ackart suggested a meeting with the village of Penn Yan to discuss the water and sewer contract. J.C.Smith will explore the possibility of renegotiating bonds, though some are 0 percent and some are non-negotiable government bonds.

• FLOHR:?Ray Stewart praised the service given to the town by the late John Flohr and said he will be deeply missed.

• POSITIONS:?Stewart also reported that Water and Sewer Dept. Head Gary Dinehart will be retiring in March and Inspector Paul Enos is eligible not long after. The Civil Service examination for the posts will not be offered until January 2012, and there is a period of apprenticeship that new employees must serve as well.

•  ZONING:?Zoning subcommittee member Mary Coriale asked the board for a resolution to coordinate the Route 54A development plan with the Branchport Hamlet Master Plan and reallocate $2000 from the BHMP for consultation services. The resolution was made and passed unanimously.

• MARCELLUS?SHALE:?The Yates County Marcellus Shale Task Force cannot find a member willing to speak in support of gas drilling.