Lumberland wraps up a challenging year

By GREGORY HATTON
Posted 11/18/20

ELDRED, NY — It’s hard to imagine a year more fraught with administrative difficulties than 2020. The Lumberland Town Board agenda for the November 12 meeting put a wrap on a variety of …

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Lumberland wraps up a challenging year

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ELDRED, NY — It’s hard to imagine a year more fraught with administrative difficulties than 2020. The Lumberland Town Board agenda for the November 12 meeting put a wrap on a variety of issues, large and small. It set the stage for challenges and decisions to be made in the new year.

At the top of the agenda was Local Law 2: the Town of Lumberland’s solar energy law. This was adjourned because documents relating to zoning and impact statements had not been received yet. However, town attorney Dannielle Jose-Decker indicated that there were issues that she felt were important to bring forward. 

“As most of you know, we have a local law in reference to large- and small-scale solar farms. It’s really tricky to issue permits. What happens when you want to decommission them? You don’t want to leave everything behind. Each project should be required to have a plan, and to have bond money to fund it. Another thing is that the topography in Lumberland doesn’t really support large-scale; but you need to have something on the books, in case somebody wants to come in.” 

Later in the meeting, an important agenda item pertained to the departure of Jose-Decker and the of attorney Michael Mednick to replace her. Deputy supervisor Leigh Sherman commented: “Good news for you, sad news for us.” His concern was that there should be a smooth transition. To that end, he proposed that Mednick be approved for an interim period, which was approved.

Leigh had another developing issue that he felt the board should be aware of. Along with Don “Bosco” Hunt, the highway superintendent, he had inspected the bell tower on top of the town hall; the years have taken its toll. Portions are in an advanced state of decay. He and Hunt are investigating ways to take down the tower and examine it. The board agreed to follow up in the spring. The historic Glen Spey School House has been used as the Lumberland Town Hall since 1950.

New business included correspondence from Doreen Hanson, who invited Lumberland to collaborate with the Highland Township Homeland Heroes Project. The board was eager to learn more about the details of the program. Supervisor Jenny Mellan explained, “You may have seen the Hometown Heroes flag of Chuck Myers. The town sponsors the program but is not financially responsible for purchasing the flags. The cost is $150; the family provides the picture and pays the town.” 

As the meeting drew to a close, Mellan spoke about the financial rigors imposed on the board: “We have adopted our 2021 budget and reported our fiscal stress and tax cap. Copies of the budget are being prepared for distribution and filing with the county. The cap has been our most difficult hurdle. The cost of health insurance was another big challenge, even though Health Reimbursement Accounts made a big difference.” Individual Health Coverage Reimbursement Accounts are an alternative to traditional group health plans. Employers can offer a monthly allowance of tax-free money to help employees buy the health care services they want. “The Town of Highland has been doing this for a few years. We spoke to them and it helped us alleviate some of the cost to taxpayers. Another hurdle was the 20 percent decrease in [Aid and Incentives for Municipalities] grants. Right off the bat, you’re losing revenue from the General Fund and the Highway Fund. We still have to keep to our budget and handle increases that come from services we have to provide. Everything had to get done with less money. Knock on wood, we were lucky there were no unexpected, extravagant expenses.”

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