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Bethlehem employees get free rent as caretakers

The town of Bethlehem owns two separate properties one at the Henry Hudson Park and one at the New Salem Water Plant that two town employees call home in exchange for caretaker duties.

Charles Wickham, the director of field operations for the Department of Public Works, lives at 157 Lyons Road at the town park off the Hudson River.

Richard Sayward, the chief water treatment plant operator, lives at 27 Patton Road in Voorheesville on the Vly Creek Reservoir.

Both earn a salary of $82,886, but according to Bethlehem Supervisor Jack Cunningham, there are different caretaking duties required of each residence.

"The town pays the taxes, and the occupant has a lease agreement that he fulfills as a caretaker," Cunningham said. "There's a separate description for the caretaker duties."

Both positions have always carried the current caretaker responsibilities, according to Cunningham, although in the past, the town's Parks and Recreation Department used the Henry Hudson Park house.

Cunningham said Wickham had requested to live in the home.

Sayward moved into the New Salem home after taking over his position from a longtime former employee who had previously lived at the residence, he said.

Sayward's caretaker duties include a type of "night watchman" function because he lives at the reservoir and helps to keep the 497.9-acre plot secured around the clock, said Cunningham.

The assessed value of his ranch style home and three-bay garage is difficult to determine because it is a part of the Bethlehem Water District No. 1. New Scotland Assessor Donna McGinnis said the entire property is assessed at around $10.6 million, and Bethlehem pays the town an annual tax of $58,266.45. Out of that, nearly $32,000 goes to Albany County, $13,000 to New Scotland, and the rest goes toward election costs and emergency service districts.

There is no deal between New Scotland and Bethlehem in terms of supplying water and property tax exemptions, according to Cunningham.

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