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Second North Collins suit regarding Rocky Mountain project has launched

NORTH COLLINS — The North Collins Town Board agreed to provide legal counsel to Highway Superintendent David Winter, who was individually named in a suit brought by Suzanne Pulk.

Town Attorney Richard Schaus explained that, while Winter was named, the action stems from a period in which the highway superintendent was on official town business and qualifies for the indemnification policy, under town law.

The board approved retaining the firm of Chiacchia and Flemming at a rate to not exceed $200 per hour, for Winter’s defense.

Pulk is also a party to a current suit that names Winter, as well as North Collins and Erie County. That suit challenged Winter’s 2011 actions to reopen Rocky Mountain Road, which included cutting trees and dumping millings from the county.

A judgement, delivered earlier this year, declared that, while the town never abandoned the lower portion of the road, it had left the upper section; by doing so, it gave up its easement on the property.

Local resident Jeff Pablocki told the board that his assessment had jumped from $18,000 to $195,000 this year; he said that this new development is creating financial distress for him.

Pablocki said that he never received notice of an assessment change and discovered it when he received his school tax bill, last month. While securing legal counsel on the matter, he was informed that it is too late in the year to challenge the assessment. He also said he has not received satisfactory answers from Assessor Jeannie Ebersole.

Facing school and town tax bills of more than $7,000 this year with the new valuation, Pablocki said that he is unable to assist his children with college costs. “It is a crime what she has done to me,” he said. “I have lost many nights’ sleep over this.”

The board met with Ebersole in an executive session, but made no public statement about the issue.

Winter spoke about two outstanding bills the board had approved “for major purchases.” He noted that an unpaid bill for $91,524 had incurred late fees of $1,794 and he asked if budget line transfers, approved by the board during the past several months, had been accomplished. “Am I supposed to go over budget?” he asked.

Supervisor Rosaline Seege said that the two bills in question have been paid and she will contact the vendor to drop any late fees, since prior notice was not given.

Seege added that delays in approving past meeting minutes led to budget lines’ not being adjusted. The board gave her authority to perform all necessary line transfers as authorized by the board, based on those minutes.

In other board matters:
– Seege, responding to what she termed “rumors in the community,” defended her push for an outside audit of the town for the two years she has been supervisor.

“Coming into office, I found many accounting errors from the previous administration,” she said. “I am making no accusations, just trying to do what is right.”

Seege said that an annual outside audit is “a must. The town is a business that collects a lot of money to provide services to residents. Changes are not an attack on anyone; times are changing and we need to function in the 21st century.”

– Seege released a preliminary budget, which she said falls $56,000 below the property tax cap and offers a minimal reduction in the general tax rate in both the town and village.

– Fire protection fees will go up, as costs from Helmuth Control are now on the line along with an increase of $5,000 in the town subsidy of the village’s share of dispatch. Garbage collection will also rise, in accordance with the current five-year contract with Modern Disposal.

The board set budget work sessions for itself at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26 and a second date, if necessary, at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 29. A public hearing regarding the proposed budget will take place during the next regular board meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Nov 13.

– Councilman Mike Perry announced that help for residents in filling out online applications for the STAR tax exemption program would take place at the North Collins Library from 4 – 8 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 28 and Wednesday, Oct. 30.

– Winter reported that his department had opted for a sander at a cost of $12,000, with expected delivery by Nov. 1.

– The board approved naming Rural Transit Service as a priority for continued funding, under the Community Development Block Grant program.

– The board paid bills in the amount of $54,512.

The next town board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Nov. 13.

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