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Monticello officials work on slew of pressing issues

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — May 7, 2010 — Monticello is struggling to get its grants house in order.
With the aid of newly-hired Dykstra Associates, the village is getting a handle on grants lost, grants unused and grants to be gained.
“The village is on the suspended list for the Community Development Block Grant [CDBG] program,” Village Manager John Barbarite told the board at its Tuesday meeting.
That’s because it had applied for hundreds of thousands of dollars it never used. As a result, those funds were earmarked for the village and could not go to another community in the meantime.
Barbarite said this week that Monticello is now disbursing more than $400,000 in CDBGs dating back to 2004.
It’s aiming to get off the suspended list, but in the meantime, it’s missed out on up to $400,000 a year in CDBGs.
“Before, I had no control of the grants,” Mayor Gordon Jenkins lamented, referencing previous tensions with former Village Manager Ray Nargizian. “We lost $400,000 ...”
“For every year for five years,” added Bob Tessier of Dykstra.
The village is also tracking down businesses which took advantage of a loan program Monticello offered through a state grant. Some of those businesses never fulfilled the requirements of the loan and/or never paid the loan back.
A few, however, may also be out of business, complicating matters further. Barbarite said some of the amounts could be forgiven, though trustees weren’t sure they wanted to do that.
LiGreci officially deputy
Though already operating in that capacity, former Village Clerk John LiGreci was permanently named the deputy village manager on Tuesday.
Trustees Carmen Rue and Victor Marinello voted against the appointment but were superseded by the three votes cast by Jenkins, Deputy Mayor TC Hutchins and Trustee James Matthews.
Though originally hired as clerk earlier this year, LiGreci had long been a contender for the manager position. Barbarite, however, got there first, and for now LiGreci will serve as his deputy for $56,000 a year, the same amount Barbarite earns.
“We’re considering it sort of a co-manager arrangement,” Barbarite said this week, though LiGreci is on a 40-hour work week compared with Barbarite’s 30.
Broadway may yet be lit
Decorative lighting on Broadway – an on-again-off-again affair – is back in the plans.
The village and Sullivan Renaissance have agreed to work together, with Renaissance purchasing and donating 64 “period light fixtures,” and Monticello installing and maintaining them.
The project will begin after the state finishes reconstruction work and will take advantage of footings and conduits now being laid.
Leachate issue in talks
Barbarite told the board that he’s had encouraging talks with county officials to get the county to offset the tremendous costs to the village for treating the now-closed landfill’s leachate.
In the past, the county took the village’s sludge in return, using it as landfill cover, but the landfill’s closure ended that, leaving the village with a $100,000+ annual tab.
Efforts to work out a new agreement, said Barbarite, were hampered by the county’s impression that the village was trying to strongarm the county.
“Their position is that they don’t owe us anything,” said Barbarite, referencing 1984 and 1990 agreements “where we agreed to do it for free forever.”
Nevertheless, the county is inclined to work out something the village may find palatable, he indicated.
“We’d like them to take the sludge indefinitely,” he remarked this week, adding that a reduced tipping fee for garbage might also be in the works.
If no agreement is reached, Monticello may take the county to court, “”which may not benefit anyone,” Barbarite said.
A question of pay
Though the vote was eventually unanimous, Rue questioned the equitability of paying $30,000 for new part-time Treasurer Heather Berg whilst giving new full-time Village Clerk Janine Gandy a $35,000 salary.
“I don’t see a balance here,” she remarked, pushing for Gandy’s salary to be increased to at least $40,000.
Barbarite replied that the treasurer’s duties basically make her full-time (she also has an accounting degree), and Jenkins explained that he had negotiated the $35,000 salary with Gandy, in addition to $15,000 in benefits.
“In six months, we’ll revisit her salary,” Jenkins promised. “I’m looking at it as a probationary period.”
“Let’s wait till the budget time,” agreed Hutchins.
war monument work approved
Village Historian Tom Rue got the unanimous nod from the board to begin work to realign the Sailors and Soldiers Monument along Broadway.
He’s still bidding the project out, with the hope that later this year he and a group of volunteers can move the obelisk back into a position where its dates match the listed wars.
surplus sale gets cheers
Spontaneous and sustained applause greeted Highway Supt. Jim Steinberg’s announcement that a recent surplus equipment sale had reaped a $17,341 profit for the village.
Thirteen vehicles were sold, but officials didn’t expect anywhere near that amount to be realized.
Barbarite said that since the highway fund is part of the general fund, the monies could be used for the village’s dream of a greatly expanded youth program.
Hutchins, for example, wants a summer camp offered just for village kids. Though the encompassing Town of Thompson provides a summer camp open to village and town children, it has limited capacity.
Jenkins said a committee is being formed to study options.
one more check for Schop
Former Village Clerk Edith Schop, who resigned last year from the post she held for nearly three decades, put in a request to be paid for the year’s worth of sick days she had accrued but never used, said Barbarite.
Though she recently pled guilty to felony grand larceny and defrauding the government, Barbarite pointed out that was related to her state job only.
Schop served for more than two decades as the law library clerk in the County Courthouse, but an investigation last year revealed she was double-dipping – filing time cards for work she did not do at the stated times.
Though the District Attorney’s Office discovered some of her law library time was actually spent at her village clerk desk, Schop was never charged with any crimes in her capacity as Monticello’s clerk.
So in the end, Barbarite agreed to pay her the maximum allowable amount per village rules – $34,447.35 for 150 unused vacation days, less than half of what she actually had accrued.
“She did not get a ‘settlement,’” Barbarite remarked, responding to public concerns. “She was entitled to the money.”
“I would like us to maybe start to revisit this,” remarked Hutchins, referring to a policy change that would affect only new, non-unionized employees.
Barbarite and the board seemed inclined to look into it further, possibly diminishing maximum accruals and/or payouts in the future.

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