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New Face Leads Blenheim at 2014 Organizational Meeting

Written By Editor on 1/7/14 | 1/7/14

For twenty years the Town of Blenheim's monthly board meetings had been led by just one man, former Supervisor Robert Mann Jr., until last night's organizational meeting featured not only the typical new year bookkeeping, but the placement of freshman Town Supervisor Shawn Smith as the rural community's elected head of affairs.

Mr. Smith, who defeated Mr. Mann in a close race this past November, publicly thanked the former supervisor for meeting with him several times between the election and yesterday and for helping to, "make a smooth transition," in the small community of under 400 citizens that has had just a handful of supervisors since the mid-twentieth century.
With only enough board members present to meet a legislative quorum (both Councilman Graham and Councilwoman Mattice were absent), the Blenheim Town Board kicked off the new year by naming the Times Journal and the Mountain Eagle as the town's official newspapers, designating the Evening Star as book-keeper and voting to raise the hourly wage of Highway Department employees 50 cents from $16.40 to $16.90.
Not every proposal was met with unanimous support. Included in the agenda was Resolution 13, which if adopted, would have changed the manner Highway Superintendent was selected from being appointed by the town board to elected by popular vote, but due to the expressed uneasiness of both Councilmen to making a final decision without the entire board's presence the measure was put on hold until February.
However, both Councilman Keyser and Ward also expressed reservations about re-appointing Gerald Felter to the position after it was revealed at the December meeting that he had used town vehicles for personal business while on and off the clock. Mr. Ward stated that he didn't, "want to vote on that[appointing Felter] without everyone here," which Mr. Smith sympathized with but he reminded both councilmen that by state law the town had to have someone in the position.
When residents in attendance were asked what they thought about the situation, the public was near-unanimous in their belief that Mr. Felter should be reappointed to the position. One resident spoke of how he helped the town in the aftermath of Irene and his wife praised the Highway Superintendent's abilities by emphasizing that there was, "not a bad thing about Jerry."

Faced with public opposition and the legal requirement to fill the important position, the board voted unanimously after almost an hour of discussion to re-appoint Mr. Felter as Highway Superintendent until all board members are present to make a decision on the position's future and whether it be filled in the future by popular vote.

In other business, the Town of Blenheim set salaries and payment schedules for town employees, heard correspondence, the Highway Superintendent's report and voted to adopt two tax abatements based off of laws passed in the Town of Schoharie in 2013 that will grant new and existing homeowners exemptions for home improvement.
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