By Jann Wiswall
The Town of Mansfield welcomed two new board members to its ranks — Greg Meyer and Larry Johnson — who were elected in November.
As is customary during the first meeting of the year, this was the board’s official organizational meeting. The board approved the reappointment of positions and reestablished official designations of service and business partners.
At Town Supervisor Bob Keis’ request, the board approved his appointment of Nancy Meeder as deputy town supervisor. The board also reappointed the following individuals to their posts: Brad Hurley, Highway Superintendent; Dale Baldwin and Leonard Horning, Deputy Town Clerks; Betty Jane Horning, Registrar of Vital Statistics; Dale Baldwin, Deputy Tax Collector; Anne Adams, Youth Director; Mary Dankert, Dog Control Officer; and Gil Wiswall, Code Enforcement Officer and Building Inspector.
The board retained its banking relationships with the Bank of Cattaraugus County, Cattaraugus County Bank and M&T Bank. Board meetings will continue to be held on the third Monday of the month, employee paid holidays and sick leave policies will remain the same, and other administrative assignments and policies will continue as previously established. The Ellicottville Times will remain as the town’s official newspaper.
Changes to the employee health plan (impacting the four full-time highway department employees and Highway Supervisor Brad Hurley) were explained. A new plan from Blue Cross/Blue Shield provides coverage that meets the requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act. As negotiated in 2010, the Town of Mansfield will pay the first $1,250 of employees’ deductibles.
Keis asked the board for authorization to rehire the same individual to mow and maintain the town’s four cemeteries and the grounds of its three municipal buildings. He expects the cost to be slightly higher than last year with the addition of the town highway garage grounds to the scope of work.
Meyer said he thought that the town should give preference to Mansfield residents who can do the same job. Keis agreed and said one Mansfield resident had the contract in the past but that the work was unsatisfactory. The current contractor does an excellent job, he added. Meyer and the rest of the board agreed to rehire the contractor for this year and to look at the contract again next year.
Keis also asked the board to adopt the county’s multi-jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan for 2014, which was developed by the county and its municipalities in 2009. Each municipality must pass a resolution each year to adopt the plan in order to ensure eligibility for FEMA aid in the case of a natural disaster. The board approved the resolution. Meyer abstained on the vote.
Keis provided some background for the new board members on some ongoing issues. One issue is the petition from 10 residents of the Hamlet of Eddyville asking the board to install two streetlights to improve visibility and safety in the community.
Keis has talked with the town attorney about the matter and discovered that in order to install lights, Mansfield would have to establish a “street lighting district” for the hamlet, hire an engineer to determine where lights would have to be placed and hold a public hearing on the proposed district. Keis said an engineer likely would require four to five lights.
At a cost of $117.64 per year per light, as quoted by National Grid, the annual cost would total $470-$588 per year. There also would be up-front costs for engineering and legal fees and costs associated with holding a public hearing. All costs would be shared by the residents of the district as a percentage based on their property assessments and charged as a separate line item on their annual county tax bills.
Keis plans to continue to talk with petitioners to determine if they want to go forward with the idea. The matter was tabled until that informal survey can be completed.
Another matter the board will need to address this year relates to a new highway department truck that has been ordered and will be delivered this spring. The truck is a replacement vehicle for one lost in the 2012 fire.
Insurance will cover $68,000 of the estimated $270,000 cost for the 2015 Mack GU 712 single axle, AWD chassis with plow equipment — $100,000 will come out of the highway department budget approved by the board in October.
Keis explained that the board will work to pay off as much of the balance of about $102,000 as possible over the course of the year through careful spending and budgeting. If, at the end of the year, there is still a balance, the board may need to obtain a loan.
Meyer did not specifically object to this strategy, but did say that he felt that Mansfield is overtaxed and “has been taken to the cleaners for years.” He said that, while he thinks Keis has been doing a good job, “every mayor and supervisor needs to be watched.”
Keis replied that he and the board have worked hard to reduce the effective tax rate over several years to where it is now (4.75 percent) and he does not expect to increase it any time soon. However, he also noted that it is going to take Mansfield several more years to recover from the highway barn fire, so he doesn’t expect to be able to reduce the rate any further this year.
At the end of the meeting, Keis asked Mansfield resident Don Telaak, who attended the meeting for informational purposes, if he had any questions. Telaak said that he believed everyone involved with Mansfield government works hard at their jobs and has the town’s best interests in mind.
He then asked several questions of Highway Superintendent Brad Hurley regarding costs for road repairs and resurfacing. Hurley cited some estimated figures and went on to explain some of the department’s processes and budget limitations. Hurley commented that the “fire’s going to hurt the town for a long while,” and until there is more funding for the department, he will have to do the best he can with what he has.
The next meeting of the Mansfield Board has been moved up a week to Monday, Feb. 10. Beginning in March, meetings will go back to their normal schedule of the third Monday of the month.