For small municipalities like the Town of Hamilton, major planning projects are a significant undertaking, and critical to the future of the community. Municipalities are strongly encouraged to develop up-to-date comprehensive plans to guide development and focus resources appropriately, but the person-power to undergird planning is often wanting. Here in the Town of Hamilton, we have talented and dedicated municipal leaders and employees who are in the midst of a serious planning effort, and Mae Staples, a molecular biology major who is a member of the class of 2015, wanted to help. As she puts it, “I wanted to be a Field School Fellow for the first time this summer because I feel strongly about the central idea of the Upstate Institute; to be able to give back to the area in which I attend college and to explore the community I am a part of.”
The goal of a comprehensive planning process is to better define those characteristics that define a community, and to ensure that further development promotes and sustains the community. According to Mae, “The data I am collecting will help to inform us about these various characteristics and how strengths can be utilized, opportunities recognized, and weaknesses and threats accurately dealt with in the town’s future.”
Mae’s Summer Field School Fellowship has also involved working on the Town’s records retention project. Like many municipalities established over 200 years ago, Hamilton has accumulated volumes of paper records stored in less-than-ideal circumstances. When the project started, Mae and her co-workers were faced with the task of sorting through boxes and boxes of material. “As we peered into boxes, we never quite knew what we would find; ledgers from 1860, old dog licenses, or perhaps check stubs from the 1980s.” An inventory of the records is being completed, and then, following New York State guidelines, some materials will be discarded, and the remainder secured for later use.
Given the long history of the town, these records are a valuable archive that should be preserved. “Our hope is to allow town residents and town employees to more easily access records, both historical and current, so that they may better understand the history of the town and how it operates today.”
Mae is looking ahead to medical school, and reflects on her summer experience as UI Fellow. “I am a molecular biology major, and the research and writing skills I have gained at Colgate translate well into my work as a fellow. Working effectively with a team of people to accomplish a common goal and solve problems along the way is excellent experience for my future career goals of working in the medical field.”