Forestburgh tables shared services agreement; talks about having backup building inspector
Story by Dan Hust
FORESTBURGH September 10, 2013 Citing the absence of Highway Supt. Dan Hogue, Forestburgh Supervisor Bill Sipos declined to discuss a shared services agreement Hogue had submitted for approval at Thursday’s town board meeting.
“I’d like to discuss it with him and go over it with him, but he’s not here tonight,” Sipos said, noting he had just gotten Hogue’s email two days prior.
The agreement had sprung in part from an ongoing power struggle between Hogue and Sipos, each of whom is elected (and up for re-election this fall) and thus wields significant power over their branches of town government.
Hogue and Sipos have battled over the highway department’s activities and expenditures, and recently Sipos asked the Town of Thompson to consider merging its highway department with Forestburgh’s.
Hogue, upset that Sipos was demanding remuneration from Thompson for using Forestburgh highway workers on a Thompson job, responded by sending out a shared services agreement form through the Sullivan County Highway Superintendents Association, of which Hogue is president.
Thompson and Delaware immediately supported the agreement, which is based on NYS Dept. of Transportation language and formalizes a sharing process that has existed for decades throughout the county.
While declining to merge highway departments, Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini said that his town would no longer share personnel, equipment and supplies with any town that did not pass such an agreement.
For now, that includes Forestburgh at least until Sipos and Hogue can come to terms on Forestburgh’s version of the agreement.
“I think some of the language in there is sparse regarding liability,” Sipos told his town board colleagues Thursday before tabling the matter.
Hiring a deputy inspector
Elsewhere during Thursday’s meeting, the board debated hiring someone to fill in for Building Inspector Richard Lorino when he’s not available or reachable.
According to Sipos, a recent fire in Hartwood stranded the Forestburgh Fire Department on site until Lorino could be reached.
Lorino a contractor was out at a job where cell service was nonexistent, but firefighters couldn’t leave the burned structure until Lorino came and determined its condition and safety.
So two ideas were initially proffered: getting Lorino a pager or satellite phone, or having a neighboring town’s inspector fill in via an intermunicipal agreement.
But Lorino told the board on Thursday that he had a simpler, possibly more effective recommendation: hiring a state-certified inspector as an independent contractor on an as-needed basis.
In fact, Lorino already had a man in mind: Bob Emerson, a certified inspector who lives in the neighboring Town of Lumberland.
“He’s located the closest,” said Lorino, who already had solicited interest from Emerson (who could not be present due to a prior commitment).
“Bob said he’d work on an hourly rate,” Lorino added, estimating that would be around $25 an hour, plus 56.5 cents a mile in travel reimbursement.
“Would that come out of his [Lorino’s] salary?” wondered resident and firefighter Jim Steinberg. “If he’s not doing his job, he shouldn’t be paid.”
“The times I haven’t been available has been very rare,” Lorino replied, predicting Emerson’s services would be needed “once in a blue moon.”
Sipos said he understood both sides and would likely find the money in the town’s budget line for the building inspector.
“We have to do something ... especially in reference to Lost Lake,” said Sipos, referring to the coming housing development near Gilman Station. “We need an alternative.”
Steinberg felt a town resident should be hired and trained (like Lorino was), rather than going outside Forestburgh’s boundaries.
“The town would greatly benefit from someone with Bob’s experience,” replied Lorino.
However, Councilman John Galligan said that while he supports an on-call-as-needed backup to Lorino, he wasn’t yet ready to talk about having an actual deputy building inspector who’d cover more than just emergencies.
Town Attorney Dave Bavoso will draw up an agreement for the board to review at its next meeting, currently scheduled for Thursday, October 3 at 7 p.m. at the town hall.
Right to Farm repeal?
Once again, the town board may discuss repealing the Right to Farm Law it adopted years ago.
Councilman Gene Raponi, unhappy with a 10-foot-tall fence that likely can be erected due to the law’s existence, broached the idea of repealing it at Thursday’s meeting.
“When you lose the ability to even have a say of what happens in a town, then I don’t agree with it,” Raponi told his colleagues.
The fence is proposed to be an extension of an existing one surrounding a game preserve in Hartwood.
Galligan told Raponi he’s not in favor of repeal, and Sipos indicated the law reflects Forestburgh’s agricultural roots, so whether the discussion goes any farther is uncertain.
Nevertheless, Sipos promised to put it on the next town board agenda.
Budget workshops set
The town board will hold two public budget workshops for the 2014 budget on Monday, September 16 and Monday, September 23, both at 6 p.m. at the town hall.