In what is now the “new normal,” the Spencer Village Board met for its May 4 meeting by Zoom, with each trustee in their own home and several members of the public online by Zoom, too. Ben Syden of the Laberge Group joined them by Zoom to update them on the dissolution process, given the disruptions of the coronavirus lockdown. He told them that the Study of Dissolution – Interim Report is still online on both the village website and on the Laberge Group website for residents to read and discuss. Neither the public hearing nor the referendum on dissolution was able to take place as previously scheduled, given the governor’s executive order not to hold meetings or village votes.
However, Mayor Ken Sutfin told the board that the governor’s most recent executive order said that village and special elections can now be held on Sept. 15 or later, so the board moved to set the village elections for trustees and the dissolution referendum on Tuesday Sept. 15. Syden said that four weeks prior to the vote Laberge would schedule a public informational meeting. “That meeting might have to be online, too, unless public gatherings are allowed by then,” he added. Syden said that Laberge will update both the website and brochure to reflect current information.
In response to a request by Town Supervisor Al Fulkerson to look at the projected tax savings numbers again, in light of the recent updated assessments, Syden said that his associate had already run the new numbers and overall the trends did not change. Village residents still do not see any benefit unless 100 percent of the CETC (Citizen Empowerment Tax Credit) goes to property tax relief. Since that rarely happens, village residents are likely to pay higher taxes. Syden also questioned how reliable New York State will be in following through on its CETC commitment, given the governor’s oft-repeated statement that New York is broke and in the hole for billions over the next four years due to the coronavirus economic disruption. When the legislature adopted the state budget on April 1, Syden said Governor Cuomo did include CETC funds, but made it very clear that he might have to cut all kinds of payments (up to 20 percent) to local governments if the state was grievously short on funds, so that is not money Spencer taxpayers should count on. The mayor noted that with the state budget shortfall, he is not counting on getting reimbursed for the $25,000 the village paid Laberge upfront for the dissolution study.
Fulkerson also asked Syden to discuss a merger of the Spencer Fire Department and Community Fire and Rescue, in case that should come up in a year or two. Neither the board nor Syden were interested in re-writing that part of the report for something that might not happen at all, or in one to two years. “Leave the report as is,” was the consensus. Fulkerson wanted Syden to better understand the many grants received by the Spencer Police Department. Syden said that the grants offset programmatic aspects, but not the Chief’s salary. “The grants allow you to do more with the staff you have,” he concluded.
Which streets to fix when there is never enough money to do everything that needs doing is a perennial problem for the village board. Trustee Gil Knapp said that he would draw up a “menu” of quotes for the board to pick the streets they think are worst. He also expressed anxiety that with the state government’s deficit, the village might not get the entire amount of CHIPS money it is owed in reimbursement for paving. Some streets listed as needing work include: all of Nichols Street, 100 feet of Harrison near the intersection with Brooks, and a NYSEG-caused hole on Kennedy Street. NYSEG did patch it once but it needs doing again.
Trustee Tim Goodrich reported that a great deal of fixing up had been done at Nichols Park to improve its appearance. These included the fence, benches and backstop. “When the grandstand is done, it will look great,” he concluded. The board discussed fixing the outfield this year as with no baseball and the Spencer Picnic very unlikely, this is a golden opportunity to bring in the dirt needed and seed it. Sadly, despite being a great opportunity, there is no money to do it. “And,” said the mayor, “if they cut our state aid, it’ll really hurt us.”
Will Panther Pak be able to run a program this year? No one knows, but they doubt it; social distance and masks would have to be the norm. Camp Badger is not running this summer, which is a real loss to the campers and their families.
The bill from the town for snowplowing services was approved for payment, but with Dick Smith’s passing, this year’s bill was not itemized beyond materials, truck and labor. The mayor will speak with the town supervisor and request for next year the standard itemized, by date, bill.
The next meeting of the Spencer Village Board will be on June 1 at 7 p.m.