Saugerties still stuck on Town Hall name (video)
SAUGERTIES, N.Y. — A solution to the Town Hall naming conflict remains elusive, and a Town Board discussion of the subject this week turned emotional at times.
During a board meeting Wednesday, Supervisor Kelly Myers introduced a two-part proposal: adhering to the 2001 resolution that called for naming the High Street building for decorated Vietnam War veteran Col. Roger H.C. Donlon, and naming a renovated part of the structure that houses the town building and police departments for former town Supervisor Gregory Helsmoortel.
Myers’ resolution was defeated, though, by a vote of 3-2, with only she and Councilman James Bruno voting in its favor.
The board last month voted unanimously for a resolution to name the Town Hall after Helsmoortel, who was instrumental in getting the building renovated but who lost a re-election bid to Myers in November. After that resolution was passed, some residents came to the town officials and pointed out that a resolution to name the building for Donlon, a Saugerties resident and Medal of Honor recipient, already was passed 11 years ago.
That 2001 resolution was adopted by a 3-2 vote of the Town Board, of which Helsmoortel was a member. He was one of the two who voted against it.
Which naming resolution is valid remains a question for town officials, who have been given two different legal opinions, one stating the original resolution was valid and another that said it was not.
While discussing the issue prior to Wednesday’s vote, Town Board members repeatedly were interrupted by audience members who wanted the 2001 resolution to stand.
They accused board members of violating the law by trying to alter that plan and said it would break Donlon’s heart.
Councilman Bruce Leighton said he and Councilman Fred Costello met earlier in the day with Donlon. Continued...
“He was completely unaware of this,” Leighton said of the name issue. He said Donlon indicated he would rather the town do something to honor all servicemen and women from Saugerties.
Leighton said there is an area of the Town Hall set aside for that and that he would prefer naming the entire building for Helsmoortel.
Costello said none of the current board members was aware of the 2001 resolution and that board’s recent resolution simply was meant to honor Helsmoortel for what he achieved as supervisor.
Councilwoman Leeanne Thornton said she spoke to former Town Board member Marie Post, who was in office during 2001, and that Post could not remember why naming the Town Hall for Donlon was never carried out.
Post also wrote a letter in which she indicated her preference to name the building for Helsmoortel and the Veteran Commemorative Wing of the Town Hall for Donlon.
Bruno said the board could not ignore the legal opinion from the New York State Association of Towns that stated the 2001 resolution was valid and should be honored.
“I was hoping for a compromise,” Myers said, adding that she brought her resolution to Wednesday’s because she felt it was important for the Town Board to follow through on the issue.
Following Wednesday’s vote, Myers suggested board members try to come up with alternative solutions, while Costello noted the town still has to resolve the issue of the two different legal opinions.
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