News from Town Hall

As I write, COVID is again on the rise. The vaccination rates in Columbia County are impressive: 62% for all ages, 70% for those 12 and up, and 83% for those aged 65 and over. Despite this success, we have seen a 167% increase in the number of cases over the last two weeks, causing the County to be ranked in the “Very High” risk category for unvaccinated individuals. As a consequence of this uptick in cases, Columbia County has issued an order requiring all employees and visitors to wear masks in County buildings. Hillsdale’s Town Hall remains open, but also requires masks, whether persons are vaccinated or not. If we continue to take precautions for our own safety and that of others, we will all get through this.

In other news, our business community is experiencing a workforce crisis, in part because of a lack of affordable housing. To help address this critical need, I have collaborated with Supervisors Mettler (Copake) and Bassin (Ancram) to create a Tri-Town (Hillsdale, Copake and Ancram) “Roe Jan Housing Task Force” to seek solutions to this challenging problem. Our extraordinary committee had a very productive first meeting and will continue our discussions later this month. In the meantime, if you have creative ideas or are aware of land suitable for building workforce housing, I would be delighted to hear from you.

Mary Lou and I wish you a delightful Labor Day weekend.

Chris Kersten
Town Supervisor
September Town Board Meeting in Person and on Zoom
The September Town Board meeting will be held at Town Hall on Tuesday September 14 at 7 PM.

The meeting will also be streamed on Zoom. For the two Public Comment sessions during the meeting the Zoom moderator will ask attendees if they want to be unmuted in order to make a comment or ask a question. Zoom attendees will be muted at all other times.

Town of Hillsdale September Town Board Meeting
Time: Tuesday September 14, 7:00 PM
Dial in: 646 558-8656 Meeting ID: 850 2012 1223
COVID Update
Columbia County's COVID-19 rate has increased significantly. As of mid-day Tuesday the 31st, ten people were hospitalized. Two of those are on ventilators. Of the hospitalized, one has been vaccinated and that individual is not in the ICU. Since the start of the pandemic Columbia County has had 4,610 cases and 97 deaths.

According to Columbia County Department of Health Director Jack Mabb, the eight new cases of COVID-19 infection among county residents reported by mid-day Tuesday was a continuation of the usual pattern in recent days.

“We tend to start off with a low number, then add to that number as the day goes along,” he said. On Saturday, the DOH recorded seven new cases, with 15 on Sunday-Monday. The total of 22 “is an incredibly consistent number for recent weekends,” said Director Mabb.

Every Tuesday and Thursday during the hours of 1 to 3:30 p.m., the Columbia County Department of Health offers COVID-19 vaccinations at its 325 Columbia Street, Hudson location. Every third Tuesday of the month, the immunization clinic runs from 1-6 p.m. 
Should Hillsdale Have
Retail Marijuana Dispensaries?
The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) passed in New York State this past March allows municipalities such as Hillsdale to decide if we want to allow retail marijuana dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities within our jurisdiction. A municipality that does not want them has to opt-out by adopting a local law stating such by December 31 of this year.

Having reviewed a summary of the major points of the new cannabis law, the town board at their August meeting decided to get local input. Information re the MRTA will be posted on the town website and a public hearing will be held on Wednesday October 6, at 6:30 pm for residents to learn more the law and express their opinions about having retail dispensaries and on-site consumption facilities in Hillsdale. The location of the meeting will be posted on the town web site.

If a town decides to allow retail dispensaries and on-site consumption sites, it may adopt local zoning laws regulating the time, place and manner of those establishments so long as it does not make the operation of them unreasonably impractical. Sales to consumers will carry a 13% tax: a 9% tax that will go to the state and a 4% local tax. Of the local tax, 25 % goes to the county and the rest of the tax will be paid to the town.

The opt-out local law is subject to a permissive referendum. If a town adopts a local law opting out but residents disagree and collect a sufficient number of qualifying signatures on a petition, the town would have to put the local law to a vote. If a town opts-out, they can in the future vote to opt-in but would not be allowed to later opt-out as opting out is only allowed by December 31. 2021.

Social equity is one of the MRTA’s primary goals. The state's Office of Cannabis Management will develop and implement a social and economic equity plan and actively promote and encourage applicants from communities that have disproportionately been impacted by the former prohibition of cannabis. A goal is to have 50% of adult-use licenses go to social and economic applicants from these disproportionately impacted groups.
New Task Force Addresses Workforce Housing
Workforce housing is the focus of a new Hillsdale/Copake/Ancram taskforce convened by Hillsdale supervisor Chris Kersten. To be known as the Roe Jan Housing Task Force, the group, made up of representatives of each of the three towns, will focus on ways to increase the amount of safe, affordable housing in the area

At its first meeting, the Task Force discussed the importance of housing in developing a more stable workforce for local businesses. Hillsdale business owner Matthew White, a task force member, discussed housing needs from a business perspective, saying “The housing situation is critical. Local workers must be respected and recognized as skilled labor who are the engine of our economy. Housing is an essential part of that.”

The changing nature of the rental market was also discussed, especially the increase in short term rentals that has adversely impacted the availability of affordable longer-term rentals. It was suggested that some of these units could be turned back to local rentals, perhaps with an incentive to participate.

The possibility of creating multi-family housing was also considered, as well as a tri-town effort to convert condemned properties into workforce housing, thereby attracting the interest of contractors to work on a larger scale.

Next steps for the group include preparing an inventory of rentals, condemned properties and town owned properties, and researching grant possibilities.

In addtion to Kersten and White, the Hillsdale members are Janis Smythe, Rick Kumro and Ellen Levy, all of the town’s housing committee. Copake is represented by Julie Cohen and Meredith Kane, and Ancram by Bonnie Hundt and Paul Ricciardi. Supervisors Jeanne Mettler of Copake and Art Bassin of Ancram are also involved, as is Al Bellenchia, executive director of Columbia County Habitat for Humanity.
Music for Kids at the Next Jams in the Hamlet
A music event for children is next up in the “Jams in the Hamlet” free concert series. Grammy nominee Brady Rymer and Claudia Mussen will play exuberant, family-friendly, children’s music. The concert will be in the Hamlet Park, at the intersection of Rts. 22 and 23, on Saturday September 18.

The event begins at 4 PM with a story hour presented by the Roe Jan Community Library. Pre-show food and drink will be available for purchase from local restaurants, including Momma Lo’s BBQ and Bacon’s Pizza.

The free concert will run from 5 - 7 PM. While some limited seating will be available, attendees are encouraged to bring a blanket or lawn chair

After a decade-long career with RCA Records jam band From Good Homes, recording and touring with acts from the Dave Matthews Band to Bob Dylan and Bob Weir's Ratdog, Brady Rymer ventured into family music as he started his own family. Rymer’s rootsy, accordion-laced pop and rock music regularly wins critical acclaim and national awards including three Children's GRAMMY nominations as well as numerous Parents' Choice Gold and NAPPA (National Parenting Publications) Gold Awards.

Claudia Mussen, a member of Rymer's band The Little Band That Could, will play the accordion and provide vocals.
J.D. Harvey, Andy Morandi and Milk Strikers??!!
This month’s blog by the Hillsdale Historians deals with Spare Parts – interesting facts and anecdotes that aren’t substantial enough to warrant an entire blog post. So you’ll learn more about J. D. Harvey, founder and publisher of the Hillsdale Harbinger, and in an ad in a more recent local newspaper you can check out a list of 76 Hillsdale businesses that were part of a Hillsdale Community Day. Then meet Andy Morandi (isn’t that a great name?) once a leading (and interesting) businessman in town. Discovering great photos of the 1957 Hillsdale Milk Strike got the Historians to research that short-lived event. The post ends with Rt. 71. Do you know what makes it unique?
Work on Town Open Space Plan Progresses
A Town of Hillsdale working group has undertaken a project to create an Open Space Plan for the town. The plan will draw on the Hillsdale 2020 Natural Resources Inventory and public input to identify a vision and strategies to preserve natural resources and protect farmland, scenic values, and the rural character of the town.
The working group—which includes members of the Town Board, Planning Board, and Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) — will develop the plan with the assistance of the NYSDEC Hudson River Estuary Program and Cornell University students under the guidance of Professor George Frantz in the Department of City and Regional Planning. The project will entail no cost to the town, and is made possible through a partnership with Cornell University and the New York State Water Resources Institute, with funding from the NYS Environmental Protection Fund through the Hudson River Estuary Program. Cornell students will develop background data and maps and will work with the Open Space team to engage the public and identify conservation priorities and strategies for the plan.
Currently the CAC is identifying and mapping the especially scenic areas of the Hillsdale landscape that are viewable from public roads. In early September the Open Space team will issue a public survey to gather ideas and information about the open spaces that are of greatest importance to the people of Hillsdale. The survey will be available on the town website and the town and community Facebook pages, and paper copies will be available for pick-up and drop-off at the Town Hall and the Roe Jan Community Library.
On the weekend of September 25 -26, Cornell students will be here to help distribute the survey at the Farmers Market, the IGA, and perhaps other public places, to talk to people, and to learn more about important parts of the Hillsdale landscape. 
The plan is expected to be completed in spring 2022. For more information about the project or to contribute ideas, contact Gretchen Stevens at [email protected]. (Photo above by Paul Duernberger)
Of Note.....
The Safe at Home Coffee Hour scheduled for September 21 at Crossroads will not be held due to COVID concerns.

Also due to COVID concerns, the Roe Jan Ramble Bike Tour scheduled for September 18 has been cancelled.

At the August meeting the Town Board voted to purchase two solar and battery powered portable radar speed signs for use on town roads.

According to recently released US Census Bureau 2020 results, Hillsdale’s population is 1831, down from 1927 in 2010, a 5% drop. Columbia County 2020 population is 61,570, a loss of 1,526 persons, or 2.4% since Census 2010. 

Hillsdale Seniors will soon receive a card in the mail with information that the October 16 Senior Chore Services Day being organized by the Safe at Home Committee to help seniors with outdoor chores around the house and yard. This volunteer project will help seniors get ready for winter. For more information for yourself or a neighbor or if you wish to volunteer, call Natalie at 518 265-2113 or email [email protected]  by September 21.

Shredding bins are available in Town Hall to seniors now through September 10. This free service is available Monday - Friday 10 AM to 1PM, and by appointment Monday - Thursday 2 - 4 PM. Masks are required in Town Hall.

The land of the Roe Jan Park was originally a working farm and much of the park is farm land still. All the fields at the Park are rented to local farmers who plant and harvest crops. Following good ag practices, crops are rotated and all fields are cut every year. The rent covers much of the costs of maintaining the park.

Hillsdale residents who don't have reliable or any Internet service can check-out a mobile hotspot from the Roe Jan Community Library for a period of up to seven days. You must be 18 or older and have a library account in good standing.

Even though the town started charging users of the electric vehicle charging station at Town Hall in late April, the number of charging sessions is increasing. In May 24 sessions generated $34.88, June had 32 for $122.50 and in July there were 45 for $132.42.
Grillsdale Returns with Barn Dance and BBQ
Grillsdale returns this weekend with a Honky Tonk Barn Dance featuring The Juke Drifters with legendary steel guitarist and five-time Grammy winner, Cindy Cashdollar. The dance takes place in the barn at Taconic Ridge Farm on Sunday September 5 from 4 to 9 PM. Also appearing will be Donny & the Moons and dance caller Alex Udis.
At the event, the Hillsdale Fire Company will be serving smoked-on-site brisket and BBQ rib dinners, served with coleslaw, mac & cheese and fresh baked cornbread for $22.50. Diners can picnic in a meadow or take the food to go. All food proceeds go to the Fire Company.
A $25 ticket for the Honky Tonk Barn Dance gets you inside the barn for the show and dancing. Tickets can be purchased online or at the barn.
The farm is at 2846 Rt. 23 in Hillsdale. No ticket is needed to enter the grounds.
Hillsdale Business Consortium Launches "Workshop Experience Weekend"
The Hillsdale Workshop Alliance, a group of local businesses who produce and support experiential workshops, is launching its inaugural event, the Workshop Experience Weekend, on September 11 and 12. The event will feature a weekend packed with a variety of workshops and classes.
Whether the instructors are local experts, or visiting makers/instructors, the goal is high quality workshops presented in beautiful settings that can be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. 

The Alliance includes businesses who hold workshops in subjects including gardening, culinary arts, floristry, crafting, writing, natural history and more. Although the Alliance was formed only earlier this year, workshops have been a mainstay in the town for years. “I’d always admired Margaret Roach’s workshops, garden days and the experiential learning she provided, which is what inspired me to present cooking classes in Hillsdale almost six years ago,” comments Matthew White, owner of Hillsdale General Store and HGS Home Chef. “It occurred to us that we could join forces with others to create an even more diverse collection of carefully curated workshops that attract interested people to our region to learn from a growing roster of exceptional instructors.”
Oldtone Roots Music Festival Sept. 11
Oldtone Roots Music Festival returns to Cool Whisper Farm in Hillsdale for one day this year, Saturday September 11, from 11 AM to 11:30 PM. This 6th Annual Festival will feature music by Roochie Toochie & The Ragtime Shephard Kings, Jesse Lege & Bayou Brew The Down Hill Strugglers, The Lucky Five, Dumpster Debbie and more.

You are encouraged to bring your instrument, chairs, and blankets as the field will be open for lot-pick’in. Schober family BBQ will be available.
Lighting District Switches to LEDs
All 58 lights in the Hillsdale/Copake lighting district, most of which are in the hamlet, will soon be converted to LED lights, thanks to funding from NYSERDA and assistance from the New York Power Authority (NYPA). Switching to LED technology can reduce street light energy use by 74%, generating significant cost savings and emission reductions. In addition, LED streetlights last much longer and require much less maintenance than conventional streetlights. All lighting district costs are covered by lighting district taxes paid by all property owners within the district. NYPA, which will handle maintenance, and the town will get immediate notice of any malfunction in the lights and will have the ability to easily dim or brighten lights and even turn them off or on as a group or individually.
September Meeting Zoom Links

Topic: Open Space Project Meeting
Time: Tuesday, September 21, 7 PM
Passcode: 349246
Dial in: 646 558-8656 Meeting ID: 858 1755 1724

Topic: Conservation Advisory Committee
Time: Thursday, September 23, 7 PM
Passcode: 08093
Dial in: 646 558-8656 Meeting ID: 826 9965 4622
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Have you seen the Hillsdale Business Directory? From plumbers to galleries, restaurants to inns, businesses have a lot to offer in Hillsdale. 

If you have a business located in Hillsdale you can add or edit your listing online.
Newsletter Editor: Meg Wormley