Westport Supervisor Dan Connell and Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley have been discussing their options as the three towns have been working together as a sole assessing municipality.
What was supposed to be an easy passage of a resolution became a who-done-who wrong debate during the Essex County Ways and Means Committee meeting Sept. 30.
At issue was the breakup of three towns which had, for the past six years, functioned as one assessing entity under a state Certified Assessment Program (CAP): Westport, Willsboro and Elizabethtown.
The resolution, which would allow the towns of Westport and Elizabethtown to hire a county employee to fill the role of assessor was questioned by Willsboro Supervisor Ed Hatch, who said his town wanted to keep the CAP in place but with the same assessor they had over the previous six years, David Galarneau.
“Willsboro is a part of this CAP,” Hatch said. “I am now having a discussions with the state who is trying to charge me for withdrawing from the CAP. We did not leave the CAP; we just decided not to go to the county.”
Westport Supervisor Dan Connell disagreed.
“We have a copy of the resolution that Willsboro was dropping out of the CAP,” Connell said. “We did not kick them out. One of the reasons that we are going to the county is because Willsboro is leaving the CAP.”
Connell later produced a copy of a resolution from the town of Willsboro dated June 12 where it voted on a motion from Nancy Huestis and a second from Shaun Gilliland to keep Galarneau as their assessor, “on an individual basis,” with all voting in favor. The town agenda also had an item titled, “Resolution to withdraw from the ... Cap program and send a notice to Westport and Elizabethtown to comply with the six month notice of the 2007 contract.”
Connell said because Willsboro officials voted to hire an assessor on their own, they had dropped out of the CAP.
“Westport is the lead town in the CAP and is the employer of the assessor,” Connell said. “Willsboro could not hire the assessor under the CAP, it had to be Westport. Anyway you look at this, they withdrew.”
Hatch said by keeping Galarneau, his town was the one still in the CAP.
“We were satisfied with the assessor,” Hatch said. “Westport and Elizabethtown chose to leave. All of our towns are at 100 percent equalization rate. We are satisfied. If they want to go, I am not going to argue with them. We did not ask to go.”
“This has nothing to do with the assessor, this has to do with the CAP,” Connell replied. “Willsboro decided that they did not want to take the chance that (Galarneau) was not going to get hired and hired him, dropping out of the CAP.”
After seeing the minutes and resolutions provided by Connell, supervisors voted 16-1 in favor of the two towns hiring a county assessor, with Hatch voting no and Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava absent.
“It appears that leaving the CAP is by default, not by resolution,” Newcomb Supervisor George Canon said.
“What I am voting on today is these two towns to go with the county,” Chesterfield Supervisor Gerald Morrow said. “Mr. Hatch can vote however he wants. I do support this resolution today because two of my colleagues asked to go with the county.”
“I guess it was clear from the beginning that if a town wanted to get out, it was there prerogative to do so,” North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi said. “From what I have heard, Mr. Hatch has made it clear that he does not want to stay.”
“It’s up to the town of Willsboro to work it out with the state of New York as far as penalties go,” board chairman and Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas said.
Hatch again stated he felt it was Willsboro that was keeping within the CAP.
“They wanted to leave because they did not want to keep Mr. Galarneau,” Hatch said. “We said no. My position with the state is that we did not want to get out; you are kicking us out. We want to stay. They do not because they do not like the assessor.”