The Johnsburg Town Board meets at Scout Hall in Sodom Tuesday, April 17.
The Johnsburg Town Board meeting was only minutes old Tuesday when controversy erupted over the board’s decision to immediately go into executive session to interview a candidate for an open position on the planning board.
Resident Bob Nessle told the board that according to Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, the board had the option of conducting the interview in executive session or in public.
Nessle urged the board, in the interest of transparency, to conduct the meeting in public, reasoning that decisions rendered by the planning board have an impact not just on the town board but on everyone who lives in the town.
“The public has a right to hear this interview,” Nessle said.
Town Supervisor Ron Vanselow told Nessle that the board had always conducted similar interviews in executive session, but that he would defer to the board as to whether that practice would continue.
Councilman Arnold Stevens proceeded to make a motion to go into executive session. A passionate discussion ensued with Nessle continuing to urge the board to interview the candidate in public. Vanselow countered that the board had always viewed these interviews as a form of personnel action and therefore, they should be kept confidential.
Councilman Eugene Arsenault said that he had no problem with conducting future interviews for planning board candidates in public but that he’d feel more comfortable with an opinion from the town attorney before he’d agree to it. The town attorney wasn’t present at Tuesday’s meeting and Arsenault seconded Stevens’ motion that the meeting adjourn to executive session. Arsenault assured Nessle that if the town attorney didn’t object, he’d support public interviews in the future.
Vanselow called the motion and the board voted unanimously to adjourn to executive session. Vanselow cleared the room and members of the public milled about outdoors as the board spent 20 minutes interviewing Curtis Richards for a vacant spot on the Johnsburg Planning Board.
Later in the evening, after the board adjourned from executive session and resumed the regular meeting, it unanimously voted to appoint Richards to the planning board.
•Transfer station: In other news, after listening to Kathleen Suozzo of Cedarwood Engineering explain the process for awarding a bid for the reconstruction of the town’s transfer station that was destroyed by fire last summer, the board awarded the project to AB Construction of Amsterdam, NY, at a low bid of $77,308.
Suozzo said that once the bid was awarded, the company would need four to eight weeks lead time before construction would begin. Cherie Ferguson, Vanselow’s administrative assistant, explained that all but the engineering fees and project oversight costs would be covered by the town’s insurance policy. Councilman Arsenault wondered why all the costs wouldn’t be covered. Ferguson explained that she’d asked numerous times about the other costs and each time was told they wouldn’t be covered.
“Ask again,” Arsenault said.
•Wevertown fire district: Vanselow updated the board on other pending issues including the situation with the town’s volunteer fire coverage. Vanselow said he thought he had an agreement Saturday among chiefs from Johnsburg, North Creek and Riverside to redraw the fire district boundaries to absorb the area comprised by the former Wevertown fire district.
Unfortunately, Vanselow said, he got a call Monday from the North Creek chief indicating that the North Creek fire commissioners would need to approve any changes to the North Creek Fire District boundaries, a development that postponed finalizing the realignment.
“But we’re getting close,” he added.
•Streetscape project: A bid for the North Creek streetscape project should be ready to be awarded soon, Vanselow said. Warren County Office of Planning and Community Development Deputy Director Wayne LaMothe is “crunching the numbers,” Vanselow said and should have a recommendation very soon.
•Ski Bowl Park: Kelly Nessle, the town’s point person on the Ski Bowl Park Grant Project, updated the board on the project status. The grant is in its fifth and final year. Nessle told the board that the town had six months to complete the project before the grant runs out in November. If the town doesn’t use the grant money and finish the project, Nessle told the board, it would severely hamper future efforts by the town to get grants, not only from the state but from the Federal government and other entities.
Nessle asked the board to commit that funding for the remainder of the project would be available. Vanselow said the board likely wasn’t prepared to make a decision regarding funding on the spot and suggested that the board commit a substantial portion of its May 1 meeting to a discussion of the project. That would allow the public an opportunity to weigh in and give the board time to be better prepared to discuss the issue.
The Johnsburg Town Board meets next at 7 p.m., May 1 at Wevertown Hall.