April 13, 2004

Organizational issues and grant-writing

The Town Board spent some time in its April meeting discussing the organization of town government, as well as on hiring a grant-writing firm to focus on new projects.

The board followed up on the presentation made at the February board meeting by Bernie Thoma of Thoma Development Consultants, examining a contract for grant-writing services.

Councilman Marty Christofferson asked a few questions about this contract, in which Thoma offers grant-writing services for $100 a month, payable quarterly, plus a percentage of grants received, minus a refund on the monthly fee if the percentage yields more than $5000. Christofferson saw inconsistencies between clauses about billing, and Town Attorney Mahlon Perkins said they would examine it before signing it.

Christofferson also brought up the needs analysis Thoma would perform at the start of the contract, an "opportunity to give our ideas to the folks who will be talking to them." Hattery noted that the Village of Dryden had done this, and included the whole board. County Legislator Martha Robertson asked if the public would have a chance to participate in this needs analysis. She received a cold response from Councilman Hattery, who asked "Are we going to entertain questions from the floor?", and got a 'no' from his fellow board members.

The board approved the contract contingent on resolution of the issue Christofferson had brought up. Hattery also noted that he didn't think this contract would preclude other grant development work the county is starting.

The board also looked at a draft organizational chart for the town, along with a directory (30K Excel or 73K PDF; both have been stripped of email addresses).

Councilman Michaels emphasized that he felt "the Town Board should be up there reporting to the taxpayers." (While I can sympathize with the sentiment, there's one major flaw in putting that into an organizational chart: the board is legally reponsible to voters, not taxpayers. Some voters don't pay taxes, and might even, if they were living somewhere for free, not feel their effect. Other taxpayers don't have a vote, either because they're not U.S. citizens or because they own property in the town but can't vote - for instance because they don't live here or because the taxpayer is a corporation. I'm not entirely sure what the lines crossing between the Town Attorney and Town Supervisor mean, either. It is, of course, a draft.)

There were also some questions about revising the organization itself, especially around who the environmental planner should report to, but those were held for later discussion.

The directory seems like an extremely useful and uncontroversial thing to have, though for privacy reasons the version here (30K Excel or 73K PDF) has the email information removed. It's a quick way to see who is on what board, for how long a term, and what the vacancies are.

Both the chart and the directory were produced by Lisa Stelick, as part of her work on the Dryden Recreation Commission.

Near the end of the meeting, two personnel issues, both boxes in the organization chart, were raised. Town Supervisor Trumbull noted that he had received a letter from the Town Historian, Elsie Gutchess, announcing both her resignation and her plans to privately publish a bicentennial history of the town and a book on schools of the town. Councilman Michaels suggested that any work she had done so far on such projects was clearly work for hire, owned by the town by virtue of her employment by the town for a $200 annual stipend, though he acknowledged that they didn't have evidence that she'd written yet, so that might not be enforceable. Of greater concern were questions about materials people had given her but not received back; Michaels suggested that they were given her in her role as Town Historian, not privately, and should be returned. Asked about how to do this, Attorney Perkins suggested "Ask her."

Finally, the town has found a new bookkeeper, Dawn Bogdan, who has been working for the Town of Lansing. The bookkeeper position is a supervisor's appointment and doesn't require consent of the board, but they seemed pleased to have her.

Posted by simon at April 13, 2004 5:13 PM in ,
Note on photos