The Bethlehem Town Board looks slightly different for the new year, with the addition of Dan Coffey, right. Diego Cagara / Spotlight News
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BETHLEHEM — The Town Board approved over 50 agenda items, including appointments, re-appointments and setting local officials’ salaries, at its annual organizational meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at Town Hall.
Town Supervisor David VanLuven’s first order of business was to welcome new Town Board member Dan Coffey who would serve a one-year term. Coffey had officially been sworn in on Thursday, Jan. 3.
VanLuven then expressed gratitude for all the residents who attended First Night as well as the numerous organizations which sponsored it back on Dec. 31, 2018 to mark the new year, “The fireworks were amazing, the venue was full … [and] planning for the event actually started last February.” He added that planning for the next First Night event will happen “in the next few weeks.”
Looking ahead, VanLuven mentioned several community events for residents to look out for. First, there will be a free two-hour presentation named “Don’t Get Scammed!” on Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 1 p.m. at the Town Hall’s auditorium, located on 445 Delaware Ave. in Delmar, where residents can learn how to avoid scams and con-artists. Second, VanLuven would deliver the annual State of the Town Address on Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 8:30 a.m. at Town Hall, where he would outline what Bethlehem accomplished in 2018, and discuss town priorities for 2019 — a continental breakfast would precede the event at 8:15 a.m. Third, there are four more comprehensive plan public forums across four hamlets which would allow residents to speak with town officials on issues they’d want the plan to focus on.
While the meetings for Slingerlands, Selkirk, and South Bethlehem had already occurred on Nov. 29, Dec. 13, and Jan. 10 respectively, the remaining ones are scheduled to take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on the following dates:
Next, VanLuven set the salaries of certain elected officials: Supervisor — $120,377; Town Board Members (each) — $15,883; Town Clerk — $78,423; Superintendent of Highways — $106,077; Receiver of Taxes — $56,713; and Town Justice (each) — $55,995.
Town Board member Joyce Becker took a moment to remember Lisle J. Snyder Sr., a 94-year-old South Bethlehem resident, who passed away on Dec. 18, 2018. “He worked at Albany County at the cement company [Atlantic Cement for 23 years] … and he believed Bethlehem was a glorious place to live,” she said. “He believed in open government and the importance of open government long before any door was ever open in government. … He was an advocate for the residents and he’s going to be missed by many people.”
The organizational meeting would then continue with almost 60 agenda items as the Town Board approved many housekeeping items like appointing and re-appointing other board members and town officials; approving town payments and fees; authorizing other departments’ salaries; setting regular Town Board meeting and Town Hall hours; establishing the Spotlight as the town’s official newspaper; and designating town employees’ 2019 holiday schedule.
Town Board member Maureen Cunningham notably abstained from — but stressed that she was not voting against — item 10 which concerned the appointment of Jim Grady to the Conservation Easement Review Board to a five-year term, ending on Dec. 31, 2023.
“I’m abstaining because first, I was concerned we didn’t use consistent criteria for evaluating the candidate for this committee and I believe that transparency is not just about having the interview process but also being clear on the criteria on which we evaluate candidates and how we make decisions,” she said. She explained she wanted a more formalized outline of ideal qualifications that CERB applicants would need to be seriously considered for the position, and that the current outline is “confusing” and unclear. Neither the Town Board meeting nor its agenda disclosed exactly what the current criteria of qualifications a CERB member applicant is judged on for now.
She later added that she would like to see more diversity on the CERB to “reflect the population and diversity of the town” since “we are entering the second year of having this committee of five be represented by five men and no women. We did have a very well-qualified and well-prepared woman to serve and I believe we failed as a Town Board to take into account how important it is to represent our whole town population and not just half of it on this committee.”
She did conclude by acknowledging that Grady, the chosen applicant, does have outstanding qualifications and skills, and she respected her fellow Town Board members for however they would vote on item 10 — they eventually approved. VanLuven then said that looking into the CERB application process “is something we’ll investigate” and that the town would always handle the appointment of board members, regardless of which department, seriously.
The next Town Board meeting would be on Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 6 p.m.