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Councilman to Mission Control: What’s the point?

Councilman Paul Shepherd leaned forward, his elbows on the table, his face covered with his hands.

He remained in that position for about two minutes as his colleague, Councilman Jim Colligan, spoke at Tuesday’s Town Board work session.

Later in the session, Mr. Shepherd leaned back with his head on the chair’s back with his eyes closed as Mr. Colligan spoke.

He wasn’t ill — although Councilman Albert Dickson at what point asked if he was all right — but rather was expressing opposition to Mr. Colligan’s proposal for a mission statement for the town and seven goals to meet in 2019.

Mr. Colligan said the process is classic management strategy to define what an organization wants, then listing goals to achieve and objectives to meet.

The mission statement Mr. Colligan has come up with for the town— still to be worked on — states: “To provide a quality of life for all residents that requires the importance and the need to protect water quality for both fresh and salt water bodies, that supports responsible community growth, maintains town assets in its capital plan and that embraces a safe environment for its community.”

Mr. Shepherd’s reaction was to say, “I never woke up and thought, ‘Jeez, I don’t have a mission statement, what the hell am I going to do?’”

Mr. Colligan, a retired U.S. Army colonel, said it was important to have the mission statement to focus on goals.

“We could tack that onto the Pledge of Allegiance and say it every time” a meeting starts, Mr. Shepherd said.

There was more.

Mr. Shepherd said he was getting “a Boy Scout feeling crawling up my skin. It’s getting to me.”

Mr. Colligan told him to “relax,” and Mr. Shepherd said, “You’re putting me in a uniform here.”

Councilman Albert Dickson gently said, “Don’t be a curmudgeon, Paul,” and Mr. Shepherd then put his head in his hands.

The goals set out in Mr. Colligan’s draft memo concern water quality; affordable housing; a capital plan for the town; deer management; improving the town’s code enforcement of short-term rentals; updating the Comprehensive Plan; and ensuring a smooth transition when Highway Superintendent Jay Card Jr. and Town Engineer John Cronin leave their posts later this year.

All board members expressed agreement with the idea of making lists to focus on priorities, except Mr. Shepherd. On the goal of improving water quality, Mr. Shepherd said, “Has there ever been a doubt about that? Why do we have to have a placard?” He went on to say that Town Boards have discussed the issue for 30 years.

Mr. Dickson responded that his colleague was making Mr. Colligan’s argument for him. “What’s been done in the last 30 years?” Mr. Dickson asked. “What have we done for water quality? Zero.”

After further discussion, Mr. Shepherd asked his colleagues to forgive him since “when I get too regimented, I get twitchy,” and that he and Mr. Colligan had different personalities. “I’m the anti-you,” he said.

Opposites attract, Mr. Colligan said, and “that’s why I love you.”

“Now you’re making me nervous,”Mr. Shepherd said to smiles all around.

Supervisor Gary Gerth deemed it a “kumbaya” moment and the discussion ended.

In other business: Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. went over suggested draft revisions of the Town Code on septic system requirements.

At one point Mr. Shepherd said, “I wonder if I’m being hustled, and that the prosed legislation sounded “suspiciously like the short-term rental law,” in that requiring residents to conform to town policies on their own properties can be extremely difficult or impossible to enforce.

He then proposed that the board look at the Center, which has the highest rates of nitrogen it its wells and a concentration of public buildings, including Town Hall, Police and Fire department headquarters, the library, the school and Justice Court. The town should “do its laundry first,” Mr. Shepherd said, which sparked a discussion.

Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams noted that a state-of-the-art septic system is planned for the American Legion post and one third of the school.

The board discussed presenting the Center’s public buildings as one campus, to attract federal, state and county funds to upgrade septic systems in use.