The goal of this newsletter is to share a bit of local news and shine a spotlight on the interesting things that are happening  in Hillsdale and nearby.

News from Town Hall
47 years ago, on March 20, 1972, notice was issued that rail service from New York City would go no further than Dover Plains. Up until that point, dating back to the early 1850s, passengers could travel back and forth between station stops from Grand Central to Chatham, including Hillsdale and Craryville.

Recyclables Permit
Columbia County now requires a permit to dispose of recyclable material at its transfer stations. The permit is an annual fee and will cover the cost of handling/processing the material. The county will charge $50 for one-year-long permits per household and $35 for residents 65 and older. There will be a $100 fee for residents from outside the county.

Permits can be purchased from the Town Clerk or at any transfer station.

Planning for 2019

An organizational meeting of the Hillsdale Town Board was held on January 2, 2019 in the Town Hall. Minutes, appointments, and resolutions can be read here.

Perhaps the biggest change is the news that Town Attorney Dick Alford, who has served Hillsdale for many years, has passed the baton to Matt Cabral, an attorney who has worked closely with us on several local laws and has lots of expertise in planning and zoning. The Town Board was pleased to appoint Matt as its new Town Attorney.

Some may also notice that both the Hamlet and Historic Hillsdale committees are inactive after many years of remarkable achievement. The Town Board would be pleased to see both committees return if there are interested volunteers, an essential ingredient to any committee's survival.

That said, the Safe at Home Committee has formed and is engaged in advancing solutions that address the needs of our older residents.  Safe at Home joins the Development and Marketing, Clean Energy, Housing, and Broadband committees. Development and Marketing is designed to prioritize many of the activities and goals of the former Hamlet and Historic Hillsdale committees.

If anyone is interested in serving on a committee, rejuvenating an old one, or forming a new committee, please contact Supervisor Cipkowski. 

A Focus on Housing

As Hillsdale becomes a popular destination and attracts an increasing number of short-term visitors, we've noticed that many properties have transitioned from permanent residences to short-term rental properties. Obviously, visitors bring valuable economic support for local businesses and support the local economy in a variety of ways.

However, economic growth also puts a strain on many local families. I've met a pregnant resident forced to move just weeks before her due date. Another family had to leave right after a major surgery. Many of our older residents face astonishing economic challenges.
As reported in the Columbia Paper, Hillsdale is not the only town in Columbia County to explore what it can do to ensure safety and quality of life for its permanent residents during this transitional time. In fact, the Town Board formed a task force to explore the matter - thanks to a very specific request from our Planning Board. And later next month, we will very likely be prepared to share a draft a proposed local law based on the research.

Because we value the economic diversity of our community and believe that we need to improve systems to better serve the people who live here, we can also admire the work of Hillsdale's Housing Committee. They're working tirelessly to explore these challenges and suggest possible remedies - something that will open to the community for discussion .

Similarly, Columbia County and the Columbia Economic Development Council have agreed to prioritize the development of affordable housing. For the first time in recent history, there is staff time dedicated to identifying potential sites and recruiting developers for the creation of suitable housing options.

County Highlights

Town Supervisors from around the county meet once monthly at 401 State Street in Hudson for the County Board of Supervisors meeting. Supervisors also sit on at least two committees - that's where the work gets debated and completed.  Hillsdale Supervisor Cipkowski is privileged to serve on the Economic Development and County Government committees and is assigned, as are all supervisors, to special projects as needed.

Some recent highlights from Columbia County government:
  • We have continued the upgraded status we received in 2017 by Moody's for 2019.
  • Columbia Country was granted $1 Million to help pay for improvements to the Emergency Training Center for our Firefighters and Emergency Medical Service workers.
  • Through the leadership of our Columbia County Treasurer, Columbia County will offset the cost of the State Mandated Cancer benefit insurance, helping our firefighters and saving fire companies and taxpayers money.
  • We enhanced public safety with the addition of three additional Sheriff's Department resource officers. Now every public school district has a resource officer paid for in partnership with the school districts.
  • We have been working with school districts to provide Mental Health counselors in our schools as well as the college.
  • The County took a major first step in dealing with our homeless population by entering into a contract with the Galvan Foundation for housing
Photo below: Hillsdale Station in the early twentieth century. Passenger traffic came to an abrupt halt in 1972. Freight continued to move for another couple of years. Sadly the building burned in the 1980s. 

More about Hillsdale's other lost buildings.

Columbia County Sees Increased Sales Tax Revenue
According to a report from the NYS Comptroller's office, Columbia County sales tax revenue increased 8.44% from 2017 to 2018, which was the largest increase of any county in the Capital Region. The County collected over $43 million in sales tax in 2018. Hillsdale saw a comparable lift.

Local sales tax collections in New York State were $17.5 billion in 2018, a 5.3 percent increase over the previous calendar year and the third consecutive year that growth in collections improved.

Certain economic factors may be contributing to this improvement -  more than 62,000 additional New York residents were employed in 2018, total wages for the first two quarters increased by nearly 5.7 percent compared to the same period in the prior year, consumer confidence has remained high and consumer spending has been mostly steady throughout the year.
The data reflects a strengthening economy in Columbia County over the last few years and strong growth for local businesses

Columbia County Board of Supervisor Chairman, and Stockport Town Supervisor, Matt B. Murell, said, "I am pleased that Columbia County's sales tax continues do very well. A variety of factors appear to contribute to the our up-tick including a robust economy that has benefited from tourism, and the sale of fuel, vehicles and other goods and services."

Photo below: Looking east from the middle of the hamlet on what is now Route 23.

Home Energy Assistance and Weatherization
The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) is a government program for low -income homeowners or renters.  HEAP will assist eligible persons with help paying for utility and heating bills. Applications are at our Town Hall and you can call Columbia County Office for the Aging 518-828-4258 for assistance.

If you are eligible for HEAP you may also be eligible for the Columbia Opportunities Inc. Weatherization Program.  COI provides energy audits to eligible homeowners and renters to find the best way to make their homes more energy efficient.  Weatherization measures - such as furnace repair or replacement, wall and attic insulation, air sealing, energy efficient refrigerators - are installed to make residences safe, comfortable and less expensive to heat.  Most people see a 20% reduction in their home heating bills after the weatherization work is done!  Please call 518-8282-4611 or 518-672-7268 for more information and an application.

Phot0 below: The view down Anthony Street and the Hillsdale House around 1910. The rumor mill reports that HH will reopen on St. Patrick's Day next month!

Safe at Home February Report
As we age, most of us want to enjoy independent lives in our own homes and surroundings for as long as it is safely possible to do so. With this goal in mind, the newly formed Hillsdale Safe at Home Committee has partnered with the Columbia County Office for the Aging on a variety of initiatives, including the mailing last fall of a helpful brochure to all Hillsdale residents describing services available to our seniors.

According to  enthusiastic responses received, it was viewed as an important way to "get the word out" about ways we can successfully lead our lives at home in our senior years.
The Office for the Aging publishes a quarterly newsletter, THE ELDER EXPRESS, that provides regular updates of services available, as well as articles of interest to seniors. The January-March 2019 issue, for example, calls attention to transportation services available to seniors for shopping, banking, pharmacies, meal site locations and other needs. Those requesting this service may call 1-518-567-3677. For medical appointments, however, the number to call is 1-518-822-8020. Other articles in this issue make us aware of scams targeting seniors, assistance with tax preparation, senior discounts, meal centers, home energy assistance, and a call for volunteers.

If you would like to receive this newsletter, please contact the Columbia County Office for the Aging, 325 Columbia Street, Suite 231, Hudson, NY 12534.
Please stay tuned for a MEET AND GREET YOUR SAFE AT HOME COMMITTEE this spring, followed by a SENIOR FAIR/WORKSHOP, scheduled for fall. 

Announcements for these important informational events will be made through the Town Newsletter and other means.

Photo below: The East Gate Toll House. Visit Friends of East Gate.

Library Seeks Volunteers
Want to get involved in your community, meet new people, and make new friends? Become a volunteer with the Roe Jan Community Library. Work at the front desk, help with events such as the annual "Party in the Park" or the annual FREE picnic.  You can also join a committee, such as music, art, communications, and gardening. There are many ways in which your talents and energy can be utilized! And it's FUN!

AARP Tax-Aide Program Tax Preparation
We are ready for the new tax changes.   Free Income tax preparation will be offered starting February 4th through April 4th at sites in Hudson, Philmont, and Valatie .   The program is opened to all individuals with special attention given to those 60 or older.   The program is part the IRS's "Tax Counseling for the Elderly".
Volunteers are trained to handle tax returns that include itemized deductions, capital gains, W2s, pensions, IRA distributions, and credits including child tax credits and earned income credits. Also, persons who purchased health insurance through the ACA Marketplace and receive a 1095-A form must file a tax return even if their income does not qualify for filing.   The only business returns that may be done are simple ones, with no depreciation and no business losses.
All returns will be e-filed unless there are some special circumstances that prevent it.
Appointments are required; call the telephone number listed under each site.   In case of bad weather call the contact number to make sure the site is opened.
If you have any questions about the program or are interested in becoming a volunteer, contact the local coordinator Noel Fair at 518-610-4879.

Locations and hours
Philmont New Location: Philmont Village Hall- 124 Main St
Monday 9:am- 1:00pm Call 518-325-4337
Hudson: Office of the Aging - 325 Columbia St - 2nd floor
Thursdays 9:00am-1:00pm - Call 518-610-4879
Valatie: Village Hall, 3211 Church St,
Tuesday 9:00am-1:00pm, Thursday 1-4 Call 518-758-9342
2020 Census Jobs
Every 10 years since 1790, the United States has undertaken the momentous task of counting all of its residents. This is your chance to play a role.  The US Census Bureau is looking to hire census takers to assist with the 2020 census.  Jobs are currently available.
2020 census jobs provide:
  • flexible hours
  • weekly pay
  • paid training
For more details or to apply for a job, visit US Census or  call 1-855-job-2020.
Thanks for reading this newsletter.   If you want to promote your upcoming event on the Hillsdale calendar, share an old photo, or write an article or two, I'd love to hear from you.
Peter Cipkowski, Town Supervisor and Town Crier