VAN ETTEN — The Van Etten town board gave the public an update on the upcoming town hall move and the water district last Thursday, alongside rejecting the one bid the board received on the current town hall building.

Code Enforcement and Dog Control Officer Thomas “TJ” Swartout gave an update to those attending the meeting the status of the new town hall and library building.

“I started the framing down there, there’s not a lot but it’s just about done,” Swartout said. “Next week, (we’ll be) with a court security person to go over the stuff and finalize where the court judge stuff is going to be. I believe after tonight, Teledair will be able to start, or they’ll be let to get the technical electronic stuff going. And the library end has been painted.”

“We’re in pretty good shape, once Teledair gets going it won’t take us long, we’ll be ready to make the move. It’s not going to take that long at all,” Swartout commented.

The board approved the bid for video surveillance and phones transfer from Teledair on Thursday.

The town board received three bids total: CPE bid at $21,014, Horizon Security bid at $20,075, Teledair’s bid came in at $15,135.

The board also discussed the bids on the current town hall building.

“(We’re) trying to get this building sold at a decent price. We’ve only got one bid on the crazy thing, but we’ve been asking other people. There was supposed to be more than one bid coming in but they didn’t do it,” Supervisor George Keturi said.

The town received one bid by the Aug. 8 deadline. The bid from Patrick J. Burnes at $51,123.30 for the current town building and lot.

Burnes also asked the town for the building if it came with the land property attached to the building and bid an extra $5,012.42 for it.

The total bid came in at $56,135.72.

The town board expressed disappointment with the one bid they received for the town building, stating the building and land was worth more. The town officially rejected the bid from Burnes.

Town Justice and Water Operator Heather Gable also gave an update on the water district during Thursday’s meeting.

“The thinking on the water board’s part is to keep the rates the lowest possible for the residents and still provide longevity and sustainability for the system,” Gable said.

Gable also stated that the town was awarded the water grant they applied for through the New York Rural Water Association.

“The first and most important thing that they will be helping with (is) our rate study,” Gable said. “They’ll look at energy audits as part of the grant, management of capital items and their sustainability, they’ll do a budget review, they’ll update and review many of the required documents that a water system needs to have on hand for the Department of Health.”

During the meeting, two Van Etten residents brought a complaint against Swartout for denying them a building permit based on bias against them. At the previous monthly board meeting, one of the residents present requested a variance surrounding the denial of the permit.

Swartout stated the permit was denied because the residents could not meet the specifications mandatory by state law to be granted a permit.

“I would like it to be looked into because I think (Swartout) him being the code enforcement officer, at least for us and several other people on Wyncoop Creek Road, is becoming a conflict of interest because of the bias that he has,” one of the residents commented.

Board member Fred Swayze Jr. stated this is was the first complaint they have received concerning Swartout.

The resident stated others were afraid to complain and risk being denied a permit in the future. The other resident stated they have talked with other residents who have stated Swartout has trespassed on property and do not believe Swartout is doing his job as code enforcement officer correctly.

“I will say this, where it’s TJ’s word as a code officer or anybody else, they still have to deal with a code officer and the laws we abide by. I know for years, and we’ve talked about this, that things have been a little loose and lawless,” Swayze Jr. said. “The board has taken a stance the last few years to start tightening up things. That’s not no reference to you, we’re trying to give a lot of leeway to a lot of things. Everything I’ve heard of from other people has been a fair representation of our code enforcement, and if someone has a complaint, they should come down here just like you folks have and voice their opinion.”

Board members Harold Shoemaker and Swayze Jr. stated the concern would be discussed during executive session.

Jen Rodriguez can be reached at (570) 888-9643 ext. 229 or jrodriguez@morning-times.com. Follow Jen on Twitter @JrodriguezMt.

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