The Spencer Town Board at its April 13 meeting continued making progress in getting the town’s bridges repaired.
In March the town board sent out proposals to 15 companies requesting qualifications to become the town’s consultant on the Bridge NY grant project. Spencer Town Supervisor, Al Fulkerson, told the board that he received three proposals, one each from firms in Buffalo, Albany and Rochester.
After discussion the board awarded the consultant contract to Hunt Engineers. The next step is to negotiate with Hunt on fees for the work to be done. Fulkerson noted that Hunt also provided extensive proposals for the same structures two years ago when the board was looking into the repairs then.
There is some confusion on what New York State wants the town to do on some of the bridges that are substandard at this time. The DOT has yellow flagged a bridge on Fisher Settlement this year despite some remedial work last year.
Fulkerson told the board that it has three choices on these flagged bridges—it can close them, post them or repair them. The town is confused about what the NYS DOT wants—post or remove the weight posting. The town has done whatever it was asked to do, so Fulkerson will send pictures to show documenting the town’s actions to comply with DOT instructions.
As for CHIPS highway funding for the town this year, the town did get $164,000 for last year’s covered expenses. The town is pleased to be getting the 25 percent amount held back by the state last year, which will be returned in this funding year. The town is getting a decent increase in CHIPS funds from the state this year, $178,000.
However as Fulkerson noted, “We won’t have any trouble spending it.”
Fulkerson publicly thanked Sander van Dijk for all of his work on the new Spencer town website—www.townofspencerny.com. The general consensus of those who have visited it find that it looks good, it works well and users have been very happy to have it. The code enforcement officer, Steve Cortright, said the new website is working well for him. Fulkerson told the board that van Dijk volunteered his time creating the website. He invoiced the town for the $900 value for his services for building the website, but he donated the entire invoice to the town. Fulkerson asked the board whether it wants to terminate the old digital towpath site now, but there was some question about whether planning board emails were still needed.
The board discussed again how it happened that the town failed to receive its reimbursement from the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance for the recent re-evaluation. NY State denied the town’s request to fund aid for the recent reassessment carried out by the Assessor Michael Maxwell. In March, the board seemed to believe that Maxwell did not apply on time. NY State offers what it calls “re-val aid” per parcel to offset the cost of a revaluation, to stay as close to 100 percent true value as possible. The town paid $20,000 for the re-valuation and had anticipated receiving five dollars per parcel. (The town has roughly 1800 parcels.) Fulkerson said, after further investigation, he believes the ball was dropped by several people, not just the assessor. Fulkerson did make an appeal to the state, sent a letter on March 17th, asking for the town’s reimbursement, but had not heard back yet from the state.
Another topic that applies to the assessor is this year’s grievance day. The board wants to be sure that this year anyone who wishes to grieve their assessment needs to know what paperwork to bring with them on grievance day for a successful appeal. Last year people did not always know what they should bring; consequently, they did not bring the needed paperwork and often felt angry and frustrated because they were not able to pursue their grievance. There is also the concern that elderly citizens do not always have internet or computers and that age group may prefer office hours for face-to-face appointments with the assessor. The assessor is appointed by the board but is independent. He has four more years on his term but Fulkerson said that he will send him an email asking him to create additional office hours for people who would like to speak with him in person.
A long-standing source of discord within the town for 20 years is junk cars. As previous former Mike Katchmir often reiterated, Cortright now repeated the same policy for citizens: nobody patrols in the town looking for junk car violations. If a citizen sees a violation, that person must file a complaint and trigger town enforcement. The process begins with the citizen’s complaint; the code enforcement officer sends a notice to the property owner to correct the violation. If the person does not correct it then the property owner will receive an appearance ticket to appear in court. A complication of the pandemic this year is that the court was closed most of this year. Consequently, many proceedings have been on hold.
In response to a question, the board said there is no plan this year to sponsor a town junk day or a tire day for citizens to get rid of these large difficult items. However, the Spencer Masons might collect metal this year.
The next meeting of the town board will be on May 11 at 6 pm.