Fireworks at Tupper Lake town board meeting
TUPPER LAKE – On the eve of Election Day, the tentative 2014 budget and the Setting Pole Dam parcel sparked contention between two town supervisor candidates at Monday’s town board meeting.
As the meeting began, resident Randy Bedore spoke against a proposed raise for the town supervisor. Bedore asked Supervisor Roger Amell who suggested the raise, and Amell said it was the budget officer.
Amell, who is the budget officer, said he hasn’t had a raise in four years.
The $2,000 raise would bring the town supervisor’s salary up to $18,000. The originally proposed budget also included a $1,000 raise for the budget officer, which would have brought that salary to $5,000. That was nixed after discussions with the board last month.
“I don’t think it’s a sustainable raise,” Bedore said. “In this day and age, nobody gets a 12.5 percent raise increase in their salary. This is not a retroactive thing; it’s a 12.5 percent raise in this year’s salary.”
Amell told Bedore, “My board thinks I should get one, so sit down.”
Not everyone on the board agreed, though.
Councilwoman Patti Littlefield – who is running against Amell for supervisor today – took issue with the raise and said she also wants the $4,000 budget officer pay removed from the budget.
“The town supervisor is charged as being the budget officer unless the town supervisor designates another individual for that,” Littlefield said. “So I’m unsure as to why there’s a separate budget item for budget officer when it’s part of the job of the town supervisor.”
Littlefield added that the supervisor should only get what’s in the budget for the town supervisor position.
“I would like to have that $4,000 for the budget officer line item removed because that’s paying you extra to do a job the position of supervisor is already charged by law to do,” Littlefield said.
“That’s your opinion,” Amell responded.
Littlefield suggested the $4,000 would be better spent to train new board members.
“There’s going to be new board members at this table, and there’s a nice training in Albany that costs about $500 a person to send new elected officials to the Association of Towns training.”
Littlefield added that Tupper Lake is a member of the Association of Towns, and whatever money is left over from the training could be used to market the town to potential tourists.
“I think that’s very good money invested in a new board member,” Littlefield said. “I’m not saying remove that $4,000 out of the budget; I’m saying reallocate it for training for new board members.”
Councilwoman Kathleen Lefebvre stuck up for Amell and said he even worked while on vacation in Florida earlier this year. Amell’s brother Randy also addressed the board in support of the raise.
Rickey Dattola told the board Amell has balanced the budget and gotten the town’s finances in order.
“If you want somebody to do a good job, you’ve got to pay them for it,” Dattola said. “I don’t think the compensation is over the top.”
The town board set another meeting for adopting the 2014 budget at 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18.
Amell’s raise wasn’t the only thing that caused debate.
After Lefebvre read the letter sent to the town from ECOsponsible Vice President Dennis Ryan, which withdrew that company’s bid for the 7-acre Setting Pole Dam property, Littlefield said that letter was different than the one sent to local media.
The town board agreed in September to put the parcel up for sale for a minimum bid of $400,000. The parcel was assessed at $436,000 last year and is currently tax-exempt.
Ryan was present Oct. 11 when the board opened his company’s bid. It was the only bid the town received. The company’s offer included $400,000 for the dam and an annual $12,000 donation for 50 years to support the town’s amateur youth sport and summer day camp program. The bid also stated that the offer was good for 10 days.
Councilman John Quinn said he was looking out for the taxpayers when he voted against accepting the bid. Littlefield also voted against accepting it.
“Selling that thing without establishing its value by a professional appraisal is a huge mistake, and I still feel that way,” Quinn said.
Littlefield said when the town sold two lots near Little Wolf Beach, the Adirondack Public Observatory board had to hire an appraiser to evaluate those lots. The sale was also put up to a public referendum, and Littlefield said the town board should have followed the same policy for the dam parcel.
Bedore agreed, and addressed Amell.
“According to your radio interview, you knew about this in May,” Bedore said. Amell acknowledged that Ryan had called him in May.
“If you would have taken that opportunity to bring it to your board members to start the discussion transparently, all of this would have been done,” Bedore said. “My legal rights to petition for a public referendum would’ve been done. The issue would’ve been resolved, and everyone would’ve had their issue resolved.”
Amell said he doesn’t have to bring it to his board until he makes sure everything is legal.
“Everytime we postpone this, it costs us time,” Amell said. “People in the private sector run on a budget and run on time. You elect us to make those decisions. Am I supposed to call you or something?”
Amell then told Bedore to sit down. Bedore said he wasn’t finished talking.
“You’re cut off,” Amell shouted at Bedore, before adding to reporters, “Put that in the paper.”
The board agreed that the dam parcel should be sold and concluded to further discuss the process of the sale at a later date.