Written complaints now required in Franklin
VERMONTVILLE — At the request of its insurance company, New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal, the Franklin Town Council has changed local law to accord with state law. If Franklin residents wish the town to take action on a defect in the road infrastructure, they must now send a written complaint to the highway department.
In the past, a phone call had been accepted as sufficient.
A public hearing, held before the year-end meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 27, attracted no residents or comments. Town Supervisor Art Willman contrasted this with strong turnout for other public hearings. One that preceded financing the town community center brought out 12 people, and another in 2010, which led to the creation of a subdivision law, packed the town hall.
Willman said the new local law, which requires written complaints, is redundant with state law. “We did it,” he said, “because the insurance company asked us to.” The date of the public hearing had been set at the regular monthly meeting on Dec. 13. At that meeting it was made clear that written documentation of road defects would be required in order to sue the town in the event of resulting damages.
In a Dec. 30 phone conversation with the Enterprise, the supervisor wished to clarify details about another matter that was discussed at the Dec. 13 meeting: installation of culverts by the town highway department for town residents. This practice refers to culverts in ditches that parallel town roads. They are installed to build an access road into a privately owned lot where new development is underway.
Originally, Willman explained, if someone asked for a culvert, it would be installed free of charge, which would cost the town approximately $300. The current revised policy requires a resident to pay for the culvert itself and the “crusher run” (crushed stone) required to bury it. “We do the work for ‘free,'” he said, emphasizing the last word. “That’s what your taxes pay for. And replacement is on us.”
The supervisor said that the town prefers to do these installations to make sure they are done correctly. “The pipe has to be pitched properly,” he said. “It should be adequate for water flow.” He also stressed that there was a formula to estimate the volume of crusher run needed to bury a pipe of a given length and diameter. Half the crusher run, he said, should be used to cover the pipe once it is in place.
At the Dec. 13 meeting, Councilman Don Hamm proposed that the town charge a flat fee of $500 for culvert installations. Hamm reasoned that this would cover some, but not all of the associated labor and hauling costs. In the Dec. 30 phone call, Willman said, “We will discuss it because I agreed to do so, but I’m not in favor because I think taxes are paying for that part already.”
Willman also provided more details about the impending construction of the town’s community center at Kate Mountain Park, half a mile north of the town hall on Route 3.
“We’ll be starting first thing this spring,” said the supervisor. “I’m in the process of contacting contractors, and we will be doing an RFP [request for proposals].”
According to Willman, the building’s architect brought a budget for $838,000 to town officials and said roughly 30 to 35 percent of that would go to a general contractor. Instead, to save money for the town, Willman will serve as general contractor for the project. He has some experience with construction, he said. The now-retired schoolteacher supplemented his income for many years with carpentry and framing during the summer breaks. He will also engage Brad Marsh, the Franklin County highway superintendent and surveyor, to dig the hole for the foundation.
The town will move its commercial kitchen out of the town hall and into the new community center when it is completed. The space freed up in the town hall will be used for a courtroom. “We will then be fully compliant with the Unified Court System,” said Willman. “There is grant money available to remodel the rooms.” The room already has an entrance compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and a private exit for the town justice.
The town regularly hosts public events using the kitchen at the town hall. The next event will be its annual roast pork dinner on Saturday, Jan. 20 from 4 to 7 p.m. In addition to the main course, the meal will include stuffing, baked potatoes and green beans.