The Gardiner Town Board worked through a packed agenda at its Sept. 9 meeting, which was littered with unanimous approvals to make significant strides toward environmental conservation and social justice improvements in addition to its regular duties.
Franco Carucci announced that the Climate Smart Gardiner Task Force had unanimously voted in favor of appointing Joule Community Power as its Community Choice Aggregation administrator. The Town Board had passed a law on March 10 in favor of moving toward the CCA program in order to achieve clean, renewable energy. In the months since, the task force had been deliberating between Joule and Good Energy as its administrator, but ultimately decided on the former based on two major points.
“First, it was the strategy of going with a default green option for energy source and gaining those points that can take Climate Smart Gardiner over the threshold into bronze certification level” Carruci explained. Joule would offer 100 percent renewable energy as the default option for energy consumers, but would offer its customers a slightly cheaper alternative called the “brown option,” which would be similar to what Central Hudson offers.”
Carucci continued that the second reason the task force opted for Joule was for the company’s quick and attentive response rate compared to Good Energy, who wasn’t as responsive. “They seem to mirror the values of Climate Smart Gardiner,” he said of Joule.
Town Supervisor Mary Beth Majestic made a motion to approve Joule as the CCA administrator, which was unanimously approved by the board members.
Later in its meeting, the board made a unanimous motion to temporarily dissolve the Environmental Conservation Commission. The decision was introduced by Deputy Supervisor Laura Walls in an effort to evaluate the group’s powers so that it could come back stronger.
Walls argued that the commission has been barely functioning despite it being a legally-mandated municipality. The group had dwindled to just three members and has not posted its minutes since April 2019, which essentially makes it a defunct group, according to Walls.
She proposed that the ECC be temporarily suspended until Jan. 21 after the board could evaluate the commission law, which she said was outdated and gave the commission too little power because it had to seek approval from the Town Board or be appointed by the Planning Board before being able to pursue a project.
ECC Chairperson Roberta Clements raised concern that the reform may not happen by January and questioned what would happen if ECC work needs to be done, but the board agreed to meet its standards by its self-determined due date.
In addition to its environmentally conscious initiatives, the Town Board also spoke of potential pathways towards making Gardiner a more accessible and affordable place to live. Majestic noted that the town’s Inclusionary Housing Code required developers to incorporate affordable housing in their apartment complexes at 10 percent - for example, if a developer builds a complex with 10 apartments, one must adhere to inclusionary standards. However, the same section also offers developers the option to pay an additional fee to overlook this requirement and keep all apartments at the same and higher price.
“We made a commitment when we passed our Black Lives Matter resolution to see what we could do as a small local government here in Gardiner to make things a little bit different for people,” Majestic said, adding that she’d like to eliminate the option for developers to skirt around the requirement. “I wanted the board to take a good look at this section of the code because this is a good opportunity for us to make an action that would make a difference.”
The board unanimously approved the appointment of board member David Dukler as the town’s Ambassador for Peace and Justice.
Nominated by Walls, Dukler would serve as the “point person” for the town of Gardiner by reporting incidents of hate and bigotry to the appropriate agencies. The role of Ambassador for Peace and Justice is to make reporting prejudice easier for victims or witnesses, rather than placing the burden on them to make reports to the State Police and other law enforcement agencies.
“I don’t personally see a need for us to have a special representative on the Town Board to do this. I’m in favor of the idea, I just think to have another layer here is not appropriate,” said Warren Wiegand, noting that it’s each resident’s responsibility to promote peace and justice. Despite his statement, he voted in favor of appointing Dukler.