New Plattekill supervisor sworn in
In just a few words, the torch of leadership was passed to Councilman Joe Croce who was sworn in last week as the new Plattekill town supervisor following the death of Bruce Loertscher.
“I, Joe Croce, do solemnly swear to support the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of New York and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of town supervisor to the best of my ability,” he said. Croce will serve until Dec. 31, 2013 to complete the term of the late supervisor, who was in the position since 2006.
Councilman Lawrence Farrelly was sworn in as deputy supervisor. The board has the authority to appoint someone to fill one vacant seat now on the Town Board.
Croce said at the beginning of last week’s meeting that “out of respect to the passing of Bruce Loertscher there will be no public input tonight. We will resume public input at the next Town Board meeting.”
Phone contract approved
The board discussed at length a contract for phone service with CornerStone Telephone, a Troy-based communications company. Croce said it was suggested at the last board meeting that they should look at several companies to compare services “however, due to the fact that this was supposed to be done in November, I think we need to make some kind of decision as to whether we’re going to carry forward with CornerStone or not.”
Croce said after he and Councilman Larry Farrelly met with a representative of CornerStone, they discovered the town is paying an additional $16 a month for phone book listings. Farrelly said the town may also realize $1,400 in savings by converting some of the existing copper phone lines to cable, which CornerStone indicated they will cover. The copper lines would remain as a backup for CornerStone’s system in case of a power failure. Savings would accrue only if the town signed a three-year contract with the company.
After much discussion, the board decided to have only the Police Department and Town Hall listed in the Newburgh and New Paltz phone books and unanimously approved a three-year contract with CornerStone.
Throughout the discussion the Town Board gave no indication that any other company was considered besides CornerStone and they did not provide the cost of the three-year contract to the public. In addition, the Town Board failed to provide any documentation from CornerStone at the meeting that would allow the public to follow along in their deliberations. This is a violation of section 103 (e) of the Open Meeting Law, which states that the public should have the ability to see the records scheduled to be discussed by a public body prior to or during an open meeting.
The Town Board also made no mention whether this phone contract was subject to the town’s procurement policy, which requires either verbal or written quotes and accompanying documentation and purchase orders from several companies before the Town Board votes to approve any contract. The amount of the contract dictates whether the quotes can be obtained verbally or must be done in writing.
After the board meeting, Supervisor Croce said he did not know the cost of the CornerStone contract and in a subsequent phone call to this reporter, he stated that a Freedom Of Information request would have to be made to obtain the information.
Croce said he and Councilwoman Lorraine Morano met with the town’s insurance representative who provided cost comparisons on several health plans.
Croce said if the town stays with MVP, “the town will incur a 9.9 percent increase in our health insurance in the coming year.” He said they were presented with a similar plan from CDHP “which would raise our cost 2.2 percent.” Croce said their representative assured him that all of the available doctors “are basically the same as MVP.”
Croce said “In the past we’ve always had a meeting with all of the employees who get these benefits to answer their questions and to try to explain what differences there might be.” Inexplicably, when it came time to approve the contract, Croce and the board did not postpone voting in order to allow time for an informational meeting with employees.
Croce said he was assured that if the town were to switch to CDHP there would be no reduction in benefits to the employees. He indicated that the deductible on each employee is paid for by the town.
By the board failing to provide any hard copy documentation on the two competing health plans to the public, they again violated the NYS Open Meetings Law. The board also gave no indication whether this contract is subject to the town’s procurement policy, nor did they state what the town’s present overall health insurance costs are and how many employees are covered in the plan. The board provided no side by side cost comparison document at the meeting to show whether the town will accrue long-term significant savings by going with the CDHP plan, with its higher deductibles, rather than staying with MVP.
Croce read Police Chief Joe Ryan’s report for January, 2013. There were 422 documented calls for service; a decrease of 10 calls from the previous month and an increase of 53 calls compared with January 2012.
The department issued 172 tickets in January, an increase of 118 tickets compared with Dec. 2012 and an increase of 109 tickets as compared with Jan. 2012.
Ryan noted there were 12 motor vehicle accidents that were handled by his department in January with two individuals who reported injuries.
Ryan’s report took special note of long-standing cases that are now officially classified as closed: a skydiving accident; four burglaries in the 2nd degree – one with an arrest; a general Incident; A grand larceny 3rd; aggravated harassment; two petit larceny cases; an attempted burglary 2nd and a grand larceny 3rd was closed with investigation.
The Department’s Dodge Durango suffered minor damage from a deer accident and the Dodge Charger is being taken out of service and will be replaced with a new Ford Interceptor. Officer Vegeto is still on long-term disability.
Ryan’s report included a statement on the passing of Supervisor Bruce Loertscher. In part, the chief’s report stated that Loertscher worked tirelessly to improve the working conditions of the Police Department and was supportive of the renovations to the Police Headquarters in town.
“He was respected by all the members of the Police Department and that respect reflects the morale and efficiency this agency operates at today.”
“The community lost a great man, friend and leader and we were blessed to have him in our lives. Bruce loved his family, his friends and his community and will be dearly remembered and missed.”
Ryan said this year’s annual pig roast will be held in honor of Loertscher. Money raised at the event will go to start a scholarship fund in his memory and will be awarded to a town resident who will major in political science or in law enforcement.
By MARK REYNOLDS