News from Town Hall
Greetings!

I hope that you and your loved ones are continuing to be well. In this time of high risk in Columbia County, please continue to observe the precautions that save lives as we await a more robust distribution of the vaccine.

January is a month of new beginnings and opportunities. Here in Hillsdale, it has been a month of assessing our priorities and planning as we move forward with a range of projects. Beginning with our Organizational Meeting on January 4 and continuing at the Town Board Meeting on January 12, we reported progress on the Sewer District Master Plan and learned about exciting plans for the Hamlet Park. We are also in the early stages of addressing a failing bridge on West End Road, and the Whippoorwill Road intersection with Route 22. Our plans also include a robust grant writing effort to support these and other priority needs, such as additional sidewalk improvements, a needed Salt Shed and repairs to Town Hall.

Thanks to the efforts of Tom Carty, we were able to sign an agreement with NYSEG and the New York Power Authority that will bring LED street lighting to the Hamlet at a cost savings to the Town. And for those of you wondering about the four missing street lamps along Main Street, the Board decided to install three replacements in early spring when the threat of damage is reduced. We will order the fourth lamp that was damaged in last December's snowstorm as soon as we receive the insurance reimbursement.

With good progress and much to do, I am grateful for the opportunity and privilege to work with our dedicated Town Board and the committees that contribute so importantly to our progress

Chris Kersten
Town Supervisor
Join the January Town Board Meeting on Zoom
Topic: Town of Hillsdale February Town Board Meeting
Time: Tuesday February 9, 7:00 PM
Join Zoom Meeting
Dial in: 646 558-8656 Meeting ID: 813 3705 5132

See the last item in this newsletter for Zoom links to other February board and committee meetings.
COVID Update
With 54 new positive cases of COVID-19 as of midday Friday, and 56 new cases on Thursday, Columbia County has passed 3,000 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, said Columbia County Department of Health Director Jack Mabb on Friday. “It’s not slowing down,” he said.

As of Sunday there were 474 active cases in the county. Of these, 19 individuals were hospitalized, and one was in the ICU. Two additional deaths at the Ghent Rehabilitation facility this past week brings the county total to 70. Ghent Rehabilitation reported 87 residents and 40 staff members are infected with the virus as of this past Friday.

Some residents age 65 and over have been vaccinated in Columbia County but quantities have been limited. “I think it’s important for people to understand that closed vaccine PODs target a specific group,” said Mabb on Friday. “We are restricted by the New York State Department of Health to administer vaccines only to those in the 1B category. I can only vaccinate other groups such as seniors when I get a specific allocation for that group.”

Director Mabb’s comments come on the heels of Thursday’s announcement that the county DOH will conduct closed vaccine PODs until its vaccine allotment increases. Current DOH plans for its next two PODs are to target grocery story workers and teachers, he said. “We will work in conjunction with grocery store managers and school administers to determine who is eligible for those PODs,” added Director Mabb.

The Columbia County Department of Health has a dedicated telephone number for those with questions: 518 697-5560. The line is active Monday through Friday from 9 AM. to 4 PM and provides general info about vaccine availability in Columbia County. It does not determine eligibility for the vaccine. To check on vaccination distribution procedures and other vaccine-related information, consult the New York State Department website.

Pharmacies in Columbia County that have signed up with New York State to be providers once vaccines are available are: Hannaford in Valatie and Hudson; Price Chopper in Chatham; ShopRite, Hudson; Walgreens in Hudson and Chatham; and the Hudson Walmart. Some of the companies have information on their web sites.
Hillsdale Organizes for 2021
New York State law requires that every town hold an organizational meeting some time in the first few days of January each year to make appointments to boards and committees, approve authorizations, policies and procedures, set fees, etc. Hillsdale’s 2021 organizational meeting was held on Zoom on January 4.

Changes, additions and clarifications for 2021 include: responsibility for purchasing supplies as well as for keys and security codes were clarified; Supervisor Chris Kersten is now Sewer District Liaison; Deputy Clerk Elizabeth Sheer is Web Resource Liaison; at the request of the Highway Superintendent, Shun Pike is declared a seasonal road, with no winter maintenance; the Town Supervisor shall be the Town’s primary contact with state, regional and county agencies, including the DOT, DEC, and DOH.

Craig Norton was reappointed as chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Board of Assessment Review. Barbara Pascale Olsen had previously been appointed as the new chair of the Planning Board and Ellen Levy has been reappointed to a new term as a member.

All resolutions, lists of committee members, Planning Board and Building Inspector fees, salary schedule, etc. are in the minutes of the meeting.
Animal Control Officer Says Get Your
Dog License and Consider Microchipping
Did you know that New York State requires that you license your dog in Hillsdale once it reaches the age of four months or if you get a new dog that is older than four months? This license, which is issued by the town clerk’s office, is good for one year and must be renewed annually. You need a completed license application, proof of an up-to-date rabies vaccination (unless otherwise stated by your veterinarian), and $11 (for spayed/neutered dogs) or $18 (for unspayed/unneutered dogs). Upon submission the owner will be provided with a numbered license tag for the dog that must be affixed to the dog’s collar. That collar must remain on the dog at all times. Contact the office of the Town Clerk at 518 325-5073 ext. 5 or townclerkhdale@fairpoint.net for the license application.

“That license tag could make a difference in being reunited with your pet if it were to run away,” says Kyle Miller, Hillsdale’s Animal Control Officer. “Microchipping is another fast and easy way to vastly increase the chances of your pet being reunited with you. Your local veterinarian or the Columbia-Greene Humane Society can provide information about microchipping.”

Kyle has a handheld device that scans animals for microchips, purchased for him by the Town of Ghent, one of the five towns he works for. “About 25% of dogs have micro-chips,” says Kyle, “and most lost dogs turn up wearing a collar with no contact information on it.”

If your pet is lost or you find a lost pet, Kyle is the person to contact. Phone or text him at 845 407-1367 or email him at kmiller7204@gmail.com. If the owners of a lost animal can not quickly be identified the animal will be housed at the Columbia-Greene Humane Society. Kyle uses Facebook to help find lost animals and the owners of found ones.

Kyle can also be contacted re loose farm animals (such as the goats that were recently roaming loose) or problems with wildlife. Depending on the severity he may offer assistance as he has a degree in wildlife management or he will tell you to contact a local DEC officer/biologist who has the proper training and permits. If it is an emergency call 911.
Hamlet Committee Presented
Draft Plan for Hamlet Park
A draft design for the renovation of Hillsdale’s Hamlet Park was unveiled to the public during a virtual meeting January 13, another step in the project’s evolution.

More than fifty people attended the Zoom meeting, which included a presentation by Chazen Associates, the landscape design firm hired by the town to reimagine the park. During the two-hour session, residents heard about the project’s goals and were shown an overhead schematic view of the proposed revamping, followed by a question-and-answer session.
 
The plan envisions a number of new features and facilities for the park, which is located southwest of the intersection of state Routes 22 and 23. Among them are an expanded playground area for children, a pavilion for concerts and speakers, a walking path, benches, picnic tables, new lighting, shade trees, a revamped basketball court, a pickleball court, and a connection to the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, which currently terminates in Hillsdale. 

The renovation is a project of the Hillsdale Hamlet Committee, which believes a revitalized park will be a space for residents of all ages to enjoy as well as provide a venue for community gatherings. It also aims to support economic growth by bringing more people to the heart of Hillsdale to patronize its shops and restaurants.
 
The Hamlet Committee gathered suggestions and comments on the redesign through a survey and a public meeting in October, and the plan reflects the balancing of input from hundreds of residents. Further adjustments are being made in response to feedback received at the January meeting. The next step is for the plan to be formally presented to the Hillsdale Town Board for review and approval.

Once plans are approved, the Committee will turn to fundraising, as the project is expected to be financed through state and other grants as well as private donations. The final park features and timing of the construction will depend on the success of the fundraising.
   
A copy of the plan is available at the link below. Email HillsdaleHamletCommittee@gmail.com to request a video recording of the meeting, to ask questions, or to comment on the plans.
Some Tax Exemptions Automatically Renewed,
Others Must be Renewed, Applied for by March 1
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide effort to stop the spread of this virus, property owners who had either the low-income senior citizen exemption (aged exemption), or the low-income disability exemption last year (2020), will automatically have this exemption renewed for 2021. You do not have to complete the normal pink exemption renewal form and you do not have to supply your income documentation for this year only (2021).

If you believe you qualify for for these exemptions for the first time, you must apply prior to March 1.
  • Senior Citizen, new exemption. Seniors must be 65 years of age or older and meet certain income limitations and other requirements
  • Low Income Disability, new exemption. Must have documented evidence of the disability and meet certain income limitations and other requirements

All other exemptions, whether new or a renewal, must be applied for prior to March 1. This includes any of the following:
  • STAR, if you have reached the age of 65 and had the basic star in 2020
  • Agricultural exemptions or renewals 
  • New Veterans exemption
  • Forest exemptions or renewals

If you have questions on any exemptions, email Pam Cook, Town Assessor, at hillsdaleassessor@fairpoint.net or call 518 325-5073 ext. 8.
Taxes Due Today!
Yes, your Town of Hillsdale taxes are due today, February 1st, but you can still make an on time payment. Payments made by mail are considered paid on time as long as postmarked by February 1st. All payments made using the town's online payment system are processed immediately: the payment date is equal to the time you complete your transaction. Payments by E-check (electronic funds transfer) include a $1.75 fee. Payments by credit card (Master Card, Visa or Discover) will include a fee of 2.45% of the tax payment amount with a minimum $3.95 charge. Payments by personal Visa debit card have a flat fee of $3.95.

Hillsdale Tax Collector Joe Hanselman reports that as of Saturday, January 30, 71% of tax bills had been paid and that the number of people paying online has about doubled, with the E-check option being particularly popular. "With E-check you are assured that you payment will not be 'lost in the mail', says Joe, "and when you factor in the cost of a stamp you don't have to buy, it is even more affordable."
Which Anthony is the Namesake for the Street?
The Hillsdale Historians are great sleuths, always eager to scour all the sources to find the answer to a question with historical import. Most recently they have been trying to determine if Anthony Street was named after celebrated abolitionist, temperance crusader and suffragette Susan B. Anthony. Originally Railroad Street, the name was changed to Anthony some time between 1904 and 1908. The Historians admit that what they have written is best described as “informed speculation.” “Informed” because they spent quite a bit of time delving into the matter, and “speculation” because they can’t provide definitive proof of the hypothesis. Read their latest blog post and see if you are convinced.
Fire Company Reports Calls, New Officers
2020 was a fairly typical year the Hillsdale Fire Company as they responded to 123 “incidents”. The average is about 100 a year. Fires accounted for 14 of the calls, including seven building fires. Downed power lines resulted in 12 calls and eight were for motor vehicle accidents .The most calls, at 30, were for unintentional fire alarm activations with no fire. An additional 25 times the company responded when it turned out that a carbon monoxide detector, smoke detector or alarm system had activated when there was not a problem or the unit malfunctioned.

The Hillsdale Fire Company has three new members this year, Steve Mitchell, Erick New, and Kolby Clegg and new officers: Chief Richard Briggs, 1st. Asst. Chief Josh Stalker, 2nd Asst. Chief Rob Burns, 1st Captain Kevin Roosa, 2nd Captain Ted Briggs, 1st. Lieutenant Alex Muller, and 2nd Lieutenant Bobby Briggs. The Fire Company is always looking for new volunteers. If you are interested in joining contact any member.
New Transfer Station Hours
Beginning January 2, 2021, all Columbia County Solid Waste Stations changed their hours. All stations are closing fifteen minutes earlier to allow the attendants to reconcile their inventory and order their supplies for the next operational day.

The Solid Waste Department of the Columbia County Department of Public Works reports that because the stations are experiencing a very high volume of material and new customers utilizing the stations they are trying to insure the stations are fully stocked with inventory. The earlier closing also allows attendants time to calculate the days’ activities before contacting the Administrative Office for sales verification.

Stations previously open until 4 PM now close at 3:45 pm and those that had been open till 12 pm now close at 11:45 AM. The Hillsdale station is open Wednesdays from 7:30 AM to 11:45 AM and Saturdays from 7:30 AM to 3:45 PM
Hillsdale Town Court Still Closed
Hillsdale Town Court is closed to the public until further notice. Details about the court are updated regularly on the phone message at 518 325-5073 ext 4 and you can leave a message there. You can also email BTiso@nycourts.gov. Be sure to include your phone number in any email or phone message. Private office appointments are available to discuss and pay suspension lift fees. Call the above phone number to make an appointment for a suspension lift.
 
If you have a ticket, do not come to the Town Hall on the scheduled date listed on your ticket. Instead do the following:
  • write your phone number on the ticket
  • identify your plea of guilty or not guilty 
  • if necessary correct your mailing address
  • mail your ticket to Hillsdale Town Court, PO Box 305, Hillsdale, NY 12529.

If your plea is guilty, you will be notified by phone with a decision after the case is reviewed by one of the justices. If your plea is not guilty, when court resumes you will be notified by phone with your scheduled appearance date and time.
New Hours for Building Inspector
Office hours for Lee Heim, Hillsdale's Building Inspector, have changed. Heim is at Town Hall on Tuesdays from 8 to 11 AM, and Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11:30 AM to 2 PM. Field inspections are by appointment. Contact Heim at 518 325‐5073 ext. 7 or bihdale@fairpoint.net.
Pails & Buckets Still Available for Seniors
Hillsdale’s Safe at Home Committee is committed to ensuring every senior has as much information as possible to age safely at home and they continue to be concerned about winter safety and risks to seniors. The pails of sand they have been distributing to seniors, as well as Columbia County Department of Health Healthy Neighborhood buckets, are still available.

In response to the 2019 Senior Needs Assessment Survey, the committee prepared and has mailed a Home Repair and Maintenance Resource Guide to Hillsdale residents age 65 and over. If you need information about the Guide or would like a pail or bucket delivered to your home you can call Safe at Home Committee member Natalie Kahan at 518 265-2113.
Zoom Links for Other February Meetings
Topic: Safe at Home Committee Meeting
Time: Monday, February 8, 12:00 PM
Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81458972216
Dial in: 646 558-8656 Meeting ID: 814 5897 2216
    
Topic: Planning Board Meeting
Time: Monday, February 8, 7:30 PM
Join Zoom Meeting
Dial in: 646 558-8656 Meeting ID: 830 7501 2163

Topic: Hamlet Committee Meeting
Time: Sunday, February 14, 9:30 AM
Join Zoom Meeting
Dial in: 646 558-8656 Meeting ID: 871 6238 4474

Topic: Economic Development Committee Meeting
Time: Wednesday, February 24, 12:00 PM
Join Zoom Meeting
Dial in: 646 558-8656 Meeting ID: 889 4708 7866
On the evening of January 19th, as bells tolled all across the country in memory of those who have died of COVID-19, the bell of the Hillsdale United Methodist Church joined in.

Following a few words by Pastor Choi, church trustee Cheryl Jones rang the bell once for each person who died of the virus in Columbia County. The event was organized by Tod Wohlfarth and Anne Landsman and broadcast live on the Hillsdale Community Facebook Group.
Newsletter Editor: Meg Wormley