Revisits Town Court Options
By Jann Wiswall
The first meeting of the calendar year serves as the Town of Mansfield’s reorganizational meeting. During the meeting on Jan. 19, the board reviewed and approved existing policies and procedures and reappointed most staff/elected officials to their respective posts.
In its review of vacation time for highway department employees, it was noted that, for the first time in recent memory, one employee — Ken Minnekine — is coming up on his 30-year anniversary with the department. The board felt that such commitment to the job and community deserved recognition. After discussion, the board opted to add a new vacation policy that would reward employees with 30 years of service with an additional five days of paid vacation time. Previously, the maximum vacation time earned was 15 days after 20 years of service.
The board also approved a motion to provide a petty cash fund for the highway department to use in lieu of the existing voucher system required for all items, no matter how inexpensive. Highway Superintendent Brad Hurley pointed out that having a small petty cash amount for items such as $5 parts or paper towels will eliminate considerable paperwork.
The board also reappointed Nate Hammond to his position on the town’s zoning board of appeals.
Town Supervisor Bob Keis reported that, to date, $145,000 in FEMA reimbursements for damage from last May’s storms has been received. Total reimbursements will be nearly $400,000, 75 percent will come from the federal government and 25 percent will come from New York State. None of the state funds have yet been received.
The board discussed how the town will use those funds as they come in. The initial payments of $145,000 have already been expended to cover the $60,000 fee to Simmons Recovery Consulting (SRC), the town’s consultants, and to reimburse the 2014 highway department budget for labor and materials already spent on repairs.
The rest must be used toward remaining repairs and, most importantly, measures to mitigate future damages. Keis noted that the board and Hurley will work over the coming months to determine the best ways to allocate those funds.
Since December’s announcement that Mansfield’s Justice Randy Alexander had resigned, Keis and the board, with the assistance of Court Clerk Dale Baldwin, have been researching next steps.
For the short term, the state’s Unified Court System has assigned East Otto’s Justice Dennis Young to serve as temporary justice until the town appoints a permanent justice or until April 30, whichever comes first.
Initially, the board expressed interest in consolidating the Mansfield court with another municipality. After some investigation, however, the board has found that consolidation is not a simple process and that there would still be associated costs.
As Keis explained, the process “is beginning to look more onerous and Mansfield would still have expenses.”
The other alternative is to appoint a new justice and retain the town court.
Keis has asked the town’s attorney to look into all of the options for the board’s consideration at next month’s meeting.
Kidney Rd. Speed Limit
Keis reported that the state has responded favorably to a request by the town, on behalf of residents, to reduce the speed limit on Kidney Rd. The new posted speed limit determined by the state will be 45 mph. Hurley will order the signs and post them once received.
Bonding for Road Damages
Hurley advised the board that he now requires logging companies to take out bonds before work begins in order to protect the town’s roads from damage caused by heavy equipment. The bonding is a deterrent that has been working, he said, noting that he has not had to make any claims to date. However, he asked the board if it was necessary to pass a town ordinance on the matter. Keis said he will check with the town attorney but believes the superintendent has that authority under state law.
The next meeting of Mansfield’s board will be held on Monday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. in the municipal building.