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Residents Ask: Double Standard in Fulton?

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 4/12/24 | 4/12/24

By Leila Crockett

WEST FULTON —  The meeting opened with Supervisor Phil Skowfoe flanked by County Attorney Mike West opening the floor to questions about his previous suspension of privilege of the floor. He then asked town board member Albert Hodder to speak first regarding the submission of a resolution that he drafted which cites New York Open Meeting Law, Article 7 Public Officers Law. 

The law is clear that citizens do not have a specific right to speak at public meetings but Hodder contends and is adamant that according to his interpretation, no one person on the board has the power to suspend the privilege of the floor. 

Hodder’s resolution seeks to limit that power to the acting board and not to the Supervisor alone. 

As for approving the resolution, Skowfoe asked for a second which was met with silence from the board. 

Supervisor Skowfoe asked Attorney West to clarify pertinent rules around the privilege of the floor.  West did state that the responsibility to manage POF is the responsibility of the board. He acknowledged Hodder’s resolution but also pointed out what he felt were redundancies as he feels that Hodder’s recommendations are already in utilization. 

Skowfoe also said that he had spoken with Brad Burgett regarding the implementation of additional rules regarding the use of POF. Burgett and Skowfoe agreed that there should be a required week's notice before POF requests are approved. Burgett felt that this would allow council members to be prepared to answer questions instead of being “a deer in the headlights”. 

Council member Marcy Sammons stated that she would prefer to keep POF open to the public and without the constraints of pre-approval. Sammons spoke with family and friends living in Fulton who felt that the need for pre-approval could cause a delay in having issues addressed.

Hodder’s resolution comes as POF was suspended after the December meeting in which his wife Joyce Hodder confronted Supervisor Skowfoe about his property at 156 Clauverwie. The property is managed by Skowfoe’s son. 

The Hodders made a claim that the property, which is cluttered with debris and almost directly across the street from their property, is allowed to remain in a state of perpetual chaos only because it belongs to the supervisor. They are not satisfied with the evaluation by the Town’s Code Enforcement Officer Brian Caron, whose only action to this point has been to write a report claiming that he doesn’t believe the property meets the criteria for any real violations. The Hodders claim that their property value has suffered as a result and would like to see it cleaned up. They also take issue with the fact that Caron does not attend town meetings and has been unavailable to either meet with them or hear their complaints firsthand.  

Skowfoe said that he had planned to open the privilege of the floor back up in February but that when he looked out onto the floor there were several folks shaking their heads telling him it wasn’t such a good idea.  Skowfoe stated that while he is agreeable to POF, that “When we start getting abusive, it’s time to stop.” This comment was likely in response to the host of high emotions that have been on display in recent POF discussions which Skowfoe felt was not productive. Skowfoe stated that “there is so much that goes on that people don’t see and when you start getting upset over it, it takes the heart and the energy out of you from doing what we should be doing rather than the things we have no total control over.”

The Hodder’s position is that they have attempted to address issues with Skowfoe’s property through other channels and were unsatisfied with the outcome which they feel is unfair. It has been implied that denying them the right to speak at meetings serves only to protect Skowfoe from being required to address the issue.

Interestingly, when another meeting goer inquired about whether there was a law regarding storage containers on the property. He stated that he was asking because he saw that in the Town of Broome, it is required that an extensive application be filed regarding time limits and other factors. He pointed out that on North Road there is an ongoing accumulation of storage containers on a property and that it should be addressed preemptively. 

Next, Joyce Hodder was permitted to speak.  

She stated, “ I was never going to speak at this meeting again but since you have an attorney here, and so he has a clear understanding, the complaint that upset you is (regarding) your property which is an eyesore and in violation of our ordinances. I presented each member of the board at that meeting with a copy of the complaint and asked if we could have the code enforcement building inspector attend the meeting. Your answer was no and I would just like it to be known that I have never received any communications from any one of you sitting at that board, because why? I don’t know but as you got to hear tonight, Mr. Skowfoe spoke to all the board members (in advance of the meeting) but Councilman Hodder in regards to the issue.” 

Next, a meeting goer requested help with the acquisition of a certificate of occupancy that he originally requested in 2002. He claimed that the original building inspector never issued the certificate that he was due. He contacted the next building inspector, Mr. Becker who never returned his call. He then called Brian Caron last month and has waited a month with no response. He went on to explain a similar circumstance with Caron 5 years ago when he wanted permission to demolish a building with potentially hazardous materials. He explained that he waited six weeks, never got a response, and took the building down anyway. 

He went on to say, “I’m instructing you to let him issue me a Certificate of Occupancy, and he’s not setting foot in my house. I’m sorry, I’ve put up with this for over 20 years. I have somebody interested in my property, and I can’t sell it. Because numerous people who have earned money at the Taxpayer’s expense as employees of this town have not done their job. Now, I need to know what I need to do to get the CO in my hand so I can proceed.” 

Skowfoe started to say that Town Clerk Dawn Skowfoe will send brian an email, to which she replied that she already had two weeks prior. 

The meeting goer asked, “What am I supposed to do Phil? You call the phone number and you just don’t get a response.” Skowfoe said that he would see if he could push Caron to respond. The meeting goer then said, “Tell him to put a CO in the mail and mail it to my address and be done with it.  He hasn’t done his job up to now, what difference does it make? You don’t want me to get upset at these meetings? Well, stuff keeps coming up and nothing gets done. Nothing gets done.” 

Other Meeting Notes: 

  • Supervisor Phil Skowfoe asked for a motion to use anticipated revenue from ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) which has been requested to repair the Heathen Creek Culvert. The motion was made and approved. 

  • The Highway Supervisor’s report indicated they are getting the jump on spring cleanup as chipping, sweeping  and road repair are underway. 

  • Town Clerk Dawn Skowfoe reported 7 dog licenses $42, two Community Room Rentals $100, three vital records/genealogical searches for $66, Six Building permits for $993.36 and one CO search for $25. Totalling $1226.36 Her tax collection report recorded the collection of $47,878.09 last month. 

  • White Goods and Tire Collection day are scheduled for April 20 from 7AM-Noon at the Highway Garage. 

  • The 2024 Rabies Clinic Schedule is as follows: 

May 30 and October 3, Cobleskill Fairgrounds

June 20, Middleburgh Town Garage

September 6, Fulton Town Hall

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