DELMAR – At its January 10 organizational meeting, the Bethlehem Town Board galloped through 61 agenda items to set salaries, including its own, and appointing and re-appointing certain members and chairs of the town’s planning, appeals, conservation easement, and assessment review boards. Supervisor David VanLuven also welcomed newest board member Thomas Schnurr, and appointed board member Joyce Becker to the unpaid position of Deputy Supervisor.
Each January, at its first meeting of the year, the board votes on myriad annual operational issues. The board voted for its own annual salaries at $138, 924 for the Town Supervisor and $17,969 for each board member. The board also voted on pay rates for the town’s other elected officials – Town Clerk $86, 462, the Receiver of Taxes $74,305, and the Town Justices $63, 351 each. Salaries for town employees are set by the applicable collective bargaining agreement for unionized employees and/or the town 2024 budget that was approved in November 2023.
The board also re-appointed Town Attorney James Potter to a two year term ending on December 31, 2025 at an annual salary of $78,039.
Current Zoning Board of Appeals chair David Deraprasad and Planning Board chair Brian Gyory were both re-appointed to one year terms ending on December 31, 2025, at the respective salaries of $8, 589 and $17, 755. Salaries for these boards’ members was set at $6705.
Among other re-appointments, the town also named Town Historian William Ketzer with an annual stipend of $5,000.
In addition to setting salaries, the Board re-set 2024 fees for electric vehicle charging stations, now at $.024, the per page charge for FOIL requests at $.25, and permitting fees for road races held in Town. The road race permit fee depends on race length and, in some cases, the number of participants.
After finishing its organization meeting items, the Board moved to approve a conservation easement to be acquired by the Town for a 66 acre parcel of land in Glenmont. The parcel was once part of the Erastus Corning farm dating back to the mid 1800s. A public hearing was held in December 2023 to consider the easement. It covers a parcel abutting the New York State Thruway and Plank Road in Glenmont , which also sits adjacent to a non-profit field reserve for education and research programs, including hands-on outdoor education for school groups.
Town Open Space Coordinator Lauren Axford explained that the easement will serve the “connectivity” of land parcels, which she called the “key for the health of wild populations – both flora and fauna.” In this case, protecting the connectivity between the privately owned land and the bioreserve will ensure conservation of the land for now and the future because it is unknown who may be the next owner of the adjacent land.
Under the easement’s terms, the land may be used by the Town for forest management, limited recreational uses such as hiking, camping, cross country skiing and nature interpretation. It may also be used for construction of a bridge whose use will be limited to access for emergency services through the neighboring bioreserve.
A brief public comment period followed at which Glenmont resident Chris Dempf repeated a request previously submitted in writing to the Board to re-open the SEQRA process and mandate the Albany Port District Commission to issue a supplemental environmental impact statement and hold a public hearing. He sought an explanation why Glenmont residents were subject for about a month in November/December 2023 to noise so deafening that it “even made conversation impossible” and shook neighbors’ houses. Dempf said the cacophony occurred when “hundreds, if not thousands, of 60 foot tall metal retaining wall piers were driven into the earth along the Mohawk Power Corp energy corridor and the Albany Port property.” Dempf, who at one point was speaking while he played a recording of the noise, was nearly drowned out by the sound.
Dempf also asked the Board to include the Route 144 corridor in the Town’s safe streets project.
This story was featured on page 9 of the January 24th , 2024 print edition of the Spotlight