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Democrat Photo by Dan Hust

THE TOWN OF Bethel Board reorganized Thursday evening at the senior center in Kauneonga Lake. Present were, from the left, Town Clerk Rita Sheehan, Councilman Bob Blais, Bookkeeper Fran Foster, Councilman Dan Sturm, Highway Superintendent Bernie Cohen, Councilman Dick Crumley and Supervisor Harold Russell. The fifth councilperson position remains unoccupied.

Board Meetings
Are Minus One

By Dan Hust
KAUNEONGA LAKE — January 10, 2006 – Every vote but one passed at the Town of Bethel Board’s reorganizational meeting Thursday.
But of course, that vote was the one the two dozen attendees were waiting for at the Bethel Senior Center in Kauneonga Lake, and its outcome was anything but certain.
This being the first meeting of the new town board, it was expected that the lone councilmember vacancy – created by the ascension of Councilman Harold Russell to Supervisor – would be filled that evening.
It wasn’t.
In fact, the board was evenly split, 2-2, on the vote to name Andrew LaPolt to the position. LaPolt, a Republican, was the third runner-up in November’s elections to fill two councilmen’s seats.
On Thursday, Russell, a Republican, and Councilman Richard Crumley, a Republican, voted for LaPolt’s appointment to fill the rest of Russell’s councilman term, which is up for election in November.
However, councilmen Bob Blais and Daniel Sturm, both Democrats, voted against the appointment.
The board, having discussed the matter in executive session a few minutes before, was already aware of the situation and thus subsequently voted unanimously to declare an impasse.
That means the matter must be referred to the county Board of Elections and likely then to Governor George Pataki, whom Russell said was the only one with the authority to break the impasse and appoint someone.
But the way some board members spoke, it’s not clear if the matter will be resolved anytime soon – perhaps not even until next January, when the winner of this November’s town councilman race takes office.
“We will go with a four-member board for the year 2006,” said an apologetic Russell. “We will work diligently to get things done.”
An equally apologetic Blais said three names had been brought up as candidates for the position, although he did not specify whom.
“They’re all good people,” he told the crowd. “It would be really unfair to make a decision. . . . I feel four people can handle the job.”
“I believe we can work really well together with a four-man board at this time,” agreed Sturm.
Crumley wasn’t so optimistic.
“I feel the third-highest vote-getter, the people’s choice, should get the appointment,” he said, referencing a tradition of doing so in the town (although not required by law). “Unfortunately, that’s not the way it’s going.”
This split, warned some attendees, could be the first of many, considering the even number of council members.
Supervisor Russell, however, begged to differ.
“I really don’t think it’s party against party,” he said to a disbelieving audience. “We can’t let party, politics or family get in the way of that.”
Russell hoped residents understood the board’s dilemma and promised to contact authorities the next day or Monday to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.
Valerie Boland, the town Republican committee’s vice chair, responded by saying Sturm – who was elected to his position this past year but had gotten on the board through a similar appointment process several years back – should not be denying the same treatment to LaPolt.
“I think fair is fair,” she said angrily. “You shouldn’t have to get to this point. The people spoke!”
While one resident congratulated the board on voting for an impasse rather than creating wedges in the community, most others who commented felt exactly the opposite.
Russell therefore appealed for understanding.
“The last thing we want this to do is pull the community apart,” he said.
In other business, Russell assured the crowd that, despite rumors, “there is no intention to close the transfer station.”
The new supervisor said his desire is to improve and relocate the station away from its current spot near the town’s sand and mining area on White Lake Turnpike northeast of the county airport.
The move wouldn’t be far – just a few hundred yards, closer to the now-closed town landfill.
Russell’s also seeking to purchase a garbage-compacting truck and keep the station open seven days a week to discourage the indiscriminate dropoff of trash at the gates when the station is closed.
“We need to get it running more proficiently,” he said, adding that if that could not be accomplished soon, “I will look at closing it. It needs to be streamlined.”
The board unanimously approved a motion to relocate the transfer station and keep it open seven days a week.
Smallwood resident Bob Barrett complained to the board that Town Road 62 – the controversial access road to the Toronto Reservoir which was deeded to the township in August – had been blocked first by snowpiles and then by logs, both deliberately left there to discourage travel, he claimed.
“Do the logs look like a barricade,” asked Councilman Crumley.
“Yeah, it sure does,” responded new Highway Superintendent Bernie Cohen.
Barrett also wondered why the town hadn’t yet taken legal possession of the road, even though the town board by resolution had agreed to take it over through an offer by developer Steve Dubrovsky.
Russell responded that the town is waiting for a survey deed and title insurance, and he hopes to have those soon.
In other meeting news, town residents who’d like to know more about their tax bills can log on to, said Russell.
Three votes were held to make budget transfers in the general fund, sewer fund and highway fund. Although it’s a standard accounting practice intended to switch funds from overbudgeted items to underbudgeted ones, Councilman Sturm took issue with the transfers and voted no on each. He did not publicly specify why.
Meanwhile, Russell named Crumley his deputy supervisor, and the board named the Democrat its official newspaper.
Meetings will continue to be held the second and fourth Thursdays of every month at 7:30 p.m. at the senior center in Kauneonga Lake (near the justice court and the post office).

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