Sullivan County Democrat
Callicoon, New York
January 22, 2010 Issue
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Monti board spends four hours arguing

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — Monticello’s village board meeting last week was a series of debates that stretched for more than four hours.
The discussion kicked off with Trustee Carmen Rue’s proposed corrections to prior meetings’ minutes, an extensive list that some trustees had only seen right before the meeting.
Mayor Gordon Jenkins alluded to concerns over Rue’s attempt to edit sections of public comment, but eventually the vote was unanimously tabled to allow more time for review.
Village Manager Zach Kelson then gave his report, saying he’d worked with Village Clerk Edith Schop to refine and revise the way financial deposits are made after having discovered $176,000 of undeposited funds in her desk.
Schop blamed a series of problems for the issue, including computer glitches.
“I think we’ve solved that problem,” Kelson remarked. “I think Edith has taken care of that.”
He then mentioned that the Concord’s construction should lead to more than half a million dollars in additional revenue to the village’s water department. The coming hotel is determining whether to continue using the village’s system once opened or drill its own wells (on village property).
Kelson also said he’s in discussions with the YMCA to take over the village’s parks and recreation department, along with providing services to senior citizens. The board authorized him to enter into negotiations, with the proviso that current activities at the Ted Stroebele Recreation Center – including meetings of the justice court and seniors club – are not harmed.
Kelson, however, indicated he may not be around long enough to finish those negotiations. When talk arose of advertising for his position, Kelson told Jenkins it’s “not likely” that he will formally apply.
When Kelson was hired in December, trustees said he would serve only until a permanent replacement is found. At last week’s meeting, they finally agreed to the language of the “Help Wanted” ad, basically looking for candidates with 10 years or more of governmental experience or equivalent education. The salary is negotiable (around $70,000 is budgeted), while residency in the village will be required (though the ad only alludes to that). Application deadline is March 16, though three resumes have already been received, said Jenkins.
However, the board tabled a resolution to require the village manager to serve more than 40 hours a week and be available at the village hall during regular business hours.
Accusations flew between Jenkins and Kelson over how much time Kelson is really applying to village matters, but eventually Village Attorney Jake Billig intervened, countering that village board members simply wanted to tweak the resolution’s language.
Kelson took issue with some of Billig’s comments, and the two bickered until Trustee Scott Schoonmaker interrupted, “If this continues, I’m going to make a motion to have both of you removed, because I’m tired of it!”
The verbal sparring subsequently slacked off between Kelson and Billig but continued amongst the board and Kelson. The fighting often turned personal, with Jenkins and Kelson continuing to evidence deep hostility toward one another.
The entire board, however, argued over how to deal with a complaint by Landfield Avenue Synagogue that it had been overcharged for sanitation services by the village.
In front of the synagogue’s attorney, Henri Shawn, the board debated whether to demand payment, forgive all disputed charges or work out a settlement regarding more than $21,000 in fees.
Trustee TC Hutchins and Jenkins felt the synagogue owed the money, while other trustees argued it was an overcharge. Accusations of anti-Semitism and racism subtly crept into the disagreement, but eventually the board, save for Hutchins, agreed to settle for about half the disputed amount. (Jenkins, per Robert’s Rules of Order, did not vote.)

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