Johnsburg Town Hall
The New York SAFE Act wasn’t on the Johnsburg Town Board agenda for the Feb. 19 regular board meeting, but it only took a question from a resident in the audience to move the issue to the forefront of the Board’s consciousness.
During privilege of the floor near the end of the meeting, resident Bob Nessle asked Supervisor Ron Vanselow to explain his vote in favor of a recent Warren County Board of Supervisors resolution condemning the manner in which the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, commonly known as the SAFE Act, was enacted and disapproving of the legislation itself.
In adopting the law, Gov. Andrew Cuomo used a legislative shortcut called a “message of necessity” to allow legislators to vote on the law immediately, rather than providing time to allow legislators to consider the bill and gather input from constituents. The state Senate approved the bill almost immediately after it was introduced and the state Assembly approved it the next day.
Vanselow said he didn’t believe government should operate that way and therefore he couldn’t support the governor in the manner in which he chose to push the law through the legislature.
The supervisor added that he agrees with some aspects of the bill but he disagrees with others. As an example, Vanselow said the clause in the law banning gun clips that hold more than seven rounds would mean that his wife’s 22-caliber rifle that she uses to “plink around with” is now classified as an assault rifle because its clip holds 10 rounds.
“It’s not an assault rifle,” Vanselow said, adding that because of clauses like that, the bill is just a poorly crafted bill and he couldn’t support it.
After Vanselow provided the reasoning for his vote, Councilman Peter Olesheski suggested that the Town Board consider adopting a similar resolution condemning the governor’s use of a message of necessity and condemning the content of the bill. Olesheski reasoned that a majority of Johnsburg residents would appreciate knowing that their Town Board opposed the SAFE Act and the manner in which it was passed.
“Our opinion wasn’t even asked,” Olesheski said.
But Councilwoman Kate Nightingale said she wouldn’t vote on a resolution that she hadn’t seen in writing first. That prompted Vanselow to postpone a vote on a resolution regarding the SAFE Act.
“That’s for next meeting, “Vanselow said, promising to prepare a resolution that mirrors the resolution enacted by the county Board of Supervisors.
In other business, the board discussed a request by Hamilton County Cable TV/Gore Mountain Gore Cable TV seeking a five-year extension in its contract with the town for the cable TV franchise in the town of Johnsburg.
In the extension agreement, the cable company pledges to upgrade its digital equipment and bring cable broadband service to an area encompassing a 3-mile radius around the hamlet of North Creek.
Vanselow asked the board if it was agreeable to extending the contract with those enhancements, but board members wanted Vanselow to seek additional concessions from the cable company.
“It seems to me that there should be something whereby they agree to serve a few more customers each year,” Councilman Eugene Arsenault said.
Resident Nessle agreed, saying that if the cable corporation is given a monopoly for cable service in the town then in exchange for that, the cable corporation ought to have to expand service in the town incrementally “from time to time.”
Resident Dave Bulmer asked if there’s anything in the contract that establishes rates and specifies the manner by which the cable company can raise those rates. Arsenault read a clause from the contract that states that any rate increases must be approved by the town and by the Federal Communications Commission.
“Then at minimum, the current rates ought to be spelled out in the contract,” Bulmer said.
“I have quite a list,” Vanselow said. He pledged to go back to the cable company and get answers that he will report back to the board at its next meeting.
Based on the recommendation of the board’s Personnel Committee, the board agreed to hire Dreu Briggs as a part-time cleaner at the town offices, but the appointment was not without controversy.
Councilman Olesheski took the appointment as an opportunity to voice concerns about the hiring process for part-time positions and then segued into his concerns about communication gaps between the supervisor and himself.
“I have expressed concerns about some of the hiring that seems to have been sort of willy nilly,” Olesheski said. “What positions require board resolutions and which are at the discretion of the supervisor (or certain board members)?”
Vanselow said that typically, full-time positions have been done by resolution of the entire board but that he has typically made appointments for part-time positions, based on recommendations from various board committees such as the Personnel Committee.
“I’m all for tightening this up,” Vanselow said.
Then Olesheski shared concerns that he has been excluded from discussions about such matters.
“It seems like in the last year, there’ve been a lot of closed-door meetings about stuff and I don’t hear about them until after the fact,” Olesheski said, explaining that it appears to him that everyone on the board is a party to those discussions except him.
Vanselow said that it wasn’t intentional.
“I see Kate (Nightingale) in town frequently,” Vanselow said. “I see Gene (Arsenault) in town. Arnold (Stevens) calls me regularly. I’m not intentionally leaving you out of any of this. I will try harder.”
When Vanselow called the vote to approve the appointment of Briggs as a part-time cleaner, Olesheski cast the lone “no” vote and the appointment was approved 4-1.
After the meeting, Olesheski said that his “no” vote wasn’t a vote against Briggs.
“I don’t even know Dreu Briggs,” Olesheski said. “It was definitely a vote against the process.”
Olesheski said that it appears to him that a lot of the decisions are already made before he even hears about them.
Nightingale defended the process saying that she and Councilman Stevens both sit on the Personnel Committee and they met to discuss the position and the appointment and had, as a committee, recommended the appointment of Briggs to Vanselow. Olesheski hadn’t heard about it, Nightingale said, because Olesheski isn’t on the Personnel Committee.
Vanselow said he copies all of the board members on all emails he receives from board members and includes them on all emails he sends pertaining to board business. Vanselow again pledged to try harder to include Olesheski in all conversations pertaining to town business.
The Johnsburg Town Board next meets at 7 p.m., March 5 at Wevertown Community Center when the board is expected to consider many items including an extension to its cable franchise contract and a resolution condemning the manner in which the New York SAFE Act was adopted as well as the act itself.