Town of Franklin talks increasing charge for culvert installation

VERMONTVILLE – At its monthly meeting, the Franklin town council entertained the idea of increasing the charge to a resident when the town installs a culvert for them. They also set a public hearing date for a new regulation that would make a written complaint a necessary precursor to suing the town. Finally, officials agreed to mull over their future relationship with cable company Charter Communications.

Supervisor Art Willman met with councilmen Donald Hamm and Thomas Bartiss on Wednesday, December 13 at 5:30 p.m. to formally present the town’s 2018 budget, which received little comment. Councilmen Clifford Smalley and Peter Woodcock were absent, so the supervisor put off decisions on some topics until all members of the council were present.

Highway superintendent Jacques Demars noted in his report that he had installed a culvert for a resident, which prompted a question from Hamm as to how he had charged for the service. Demars mentioned a figure under $400, which covered the price of the culvert itself and the materials (crusher run) used to bury it.

Hamm said that the cost of labor, wear and tear on equipment, and hauling time would come to more than $500, and he suggested that the town charge a flat $500 whenever the culvert was for a new lot or for new development. Hamm said he realized that this would not cover the entire cost, but he preferred to recoup some of the costs beyond the culvert and materials.

Willman noted that there was already a town policy in place, and the council would have to discuss it in order to change the policy. The three elected officials agreed to take up the subject when their two colleagues were present.

The supervisor then read a revised regulation written by New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal that addressed complaints from residents about defects in roads, bridges, culverts, and sidewalks. Under the existing town policy, a resident need only to make a phone call to report unsatisfactory or purportedly dangerous conditions. Under the new policy, the resident would have to put the complaint in writing and submit it to the highway superintendent. The highway department would then have to forward it to the town clerk within five days, and the clerk would then have to make the council aware of it within another five days. The defect must be repaired by the town “within a reasonable amount of time.”

“This is just common sense,” said Willman. “It just tightens up what should be tightened up.”

Bartiss took issue with the vagueness of the “reasonable amount of time” language, but town clerk Lauren LeFebvre assured him that NYMIR insisted on the wording. She explained that if, for example, a storm came through and destroyed several culverts, a “reasonable amount of time” would be longer than if the damage was less extensive.

The council voted to set the public hearing for the new regulation for 5:30 p.m. on December 27, the same date as the end-of-the-year meeting for the town, which will follow the hearing.

Supervisor Willman told the council that he had heard from Charter Communications, the cable company that does business as Spectrum, and they would like to renew their contract with the town. Willman indicated that the length of the new term was 10 or 12 years and that the company was not promising to increase the extent of their coverage within the town.

Bartiss expressed some irritation with the company and suggested that the town offer to renew for a shorter period while suggesting to the cable service provider that if service were not improved, they would be looking elsewhere for a better offer. Willman felt it was unlikely that a small town like Franklin would have much leverage, and all the officials were unsure as to whether a new provider could use the Charter Communications infrastructure. This topic was tabled until the full board was present to discuss it and make a decision.

The town’s Christmas party will be at the town hall in Vermontville from noon to 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Santa Claus will be on hand and there will be a buffet.