October 21, 2014
1.2013 Audit presentation
The auditors repeated the presentation they made at the September 23, 2014 work session. They pointed out that by using the fund balance while economic activity was still slowing recovering, the town had stayed within the tax levy cap. For 2015, the levy cap will be 1.6%. Supervisor Grace noted that the town actually is penalized by lowering its tax levy because the next year’s levy is based on the previous year’s levy, Because we decreased the levy last year, he said, we can’t increase it for 2015.
Regarding the fund balance, Councilman Patel questioned why the town has been postponing a list of needed capital projects. In response, the supervisor said he hopes to have a capital bonding plan approved for 2015 that will have a flat impact on taxes. He said there were challenges in the next budget and he was critical of people who saw the glass as half full.
2. Auction of town-owned property
Supervisor Grace reminded residents that the auction of town-owned property will be held on Saturday, November 8. More information is available in the clerk’s office or on the town web site.
3. Courtesy of the Floor
Sober house: (See sober house below.)
Pension shortfall: Howard Frank said he hoped that there wouldn’t be a repeat of the 2013 pension shortfall. In response, Supervisor Grace said the problem resulted from the need to account for the retroactive pay included in the police contract and that the town was caught between the different state and town fiscal years. He said the 2014 payment was spot on. Councilman Patel again raised the issue of why the bill was paid in November but the board wasn’t told about the shortfall until April when it voted for a budget transfer. Comptroller Caporale insisted that she had told the board about the shortfall in November.
Pay raises for part time employees: Ed Ciffone, who works part time in the court, asked the board to consider raises for part time employees in the 2015 budget.
New telephone system: Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary, asked the board why it had removed a resolution from the October 7 agenda that would have approved overriding the town’s procurement policy and awarded $133,000 worth of contracts to three firms. In response, Supervisor Grace said the issue had been pulled from the agenda and was dead. In response to a follow up question, he said the town would be doing an RFP (request for proposals).
Garbage collection; Brian Amico, an employee of Competition Carting, presented the board with papers concerning the failure of the town’s former garbage collector, CRP, to pay prevailing wages. More details were not available, including whether the town was involved in the lawsuit.
4. Public hearing/ Sober House
During courtesy of the floor, George Brink asked if the board would consider adopting a moratorium on new sober house permit applications until a new section governing sober houses was added to the zoning code and to prevent a potential flood of new applications based on the existing ordinance. In response, Supervisor Grace said he was loathe to adopt a moratorium because they suspend property owner’s rights and are very easy to attack. Councilman Murphy thought Mr. Brink’s comments about taking a proactive approach made a great point.
The board reviewed the Planning Board’s comments on changes to the parking and landscaping plans and appeared in general agreement with all the recommendations except the exit to French Hill Road.
One issue left unresolved was identifying, on the site plan, the actual location of the septic fields so that any planned conservation spaces did not encroach on the fields. Whenever the septic system came up, the applicant reminded the board that Compass Westchester has already received county Department of Health okay for the septic system. Nick Toumanios, a professional engineer, said that he had been unable to obtain copies of the septic field maps from the Department of Health and that the department’s approval was based on old regulations. Supervisor Grace said the town had no say in the septic issue.
The applicant will submit a revised site plan showing the desired changes. Over the objections of Mr. Nowak, Supervisor Grace said there was no need to refer the revised plan back to the Planning Board.
The applicant stated that the disputed stockade fence was on his property and that except for a portion that had been repaired by the abutting property owner, the property’s prior owner had installed the fence. He said the privet hedge was also on his property.
Mr. Nowak asked if, based on his comments at a prior hearing, the Fire Advisory Board or fire inspector had checked into the possible need for sprinklers in the buildings. Supervisor Grace said they had not looked into the issue but that he would take care of this. He didn’t think sprinklers were needed.
Pia Riverso went through the list of 19 conditions Compass Westchester said it was willing to agree to, as well as the proposed House Rules and suggested where residents wanted changes. Among those concerns were:
· how the town would enforce the conditions
· how many times a resident could violate the house rules before being removed
· the need for the residents to be covered by some type of liability insurance coverage
· the installation of video surveillance cameras to protect both the sober house and neighbors.
Supervisor Grace appeared to have no issue with some of the suggestions but also appeared to dismiss others as not feasible. Ms. Riverso offered to sit down with the applicant and a representative of the town to work out conditions acceptable to all parties. The applicant will provide written responses to Ms. Riverso’s document.
Supervisor Grace said he understood the concerns the residents had and was committed to holding the applicant’s feet to the fire regarding enforcement and that the facility had to be operated properly. He made a strong appeal for the need for a sober house.
In response to a comment from Ms. Riverso regarding how the property would be assessed once it was used for a profit making business, Supervisor Grace explained that after a special permit is issued the assessor’s office typically reassesses the property based on the new use.
Dr. Washton, the applicant’s addiction consultant, made a statement about the value of sober living residences and acknowledged that while some operators have very positive records, there have been problems with others.
In response to Ed Ciffone’s question whether granting the permit would set a precedent for future applications, Councilman Murphy said that each application would be considered on an individual basis. And, in response to a question from another resident regarding amending the zoning code to add a special permit specifically for sober houses, Supervisor Grace that doing so would run into legal problems.
Al French presented the board with a list of seven reasons, mostly citing provisions of the zoning code and the Comprehensive Plan, as to why the board could and should deny the permit.
Acknowledging the concerns of residents, Supervisor Grace said that all future board deliberations on the application would be done in public. When he made a motion to close the hearing, Councilman Murphy objected saying that he wanted it kept open so that he could get more input on some unresolved issues, such as the septic fields. When Mr. McCrossan, the applicant objected and reminded Mr. Murphy that all the information he needed about the septic issue was in the file and that other issues raised by the residents were not relevant, Mr. Murphy disagreed, saying that the issues were not irrelevant.
In a compromise gesture, the board voted to close the public hearing for public comment but adjourned the hearing. (NOTE: In a conversation with Town Clerk Alice Roker on Thursday, October 23rd, Ms. Roker said that a public hearing could not be closed for some and left open for others. She said the official minutes will state that the hearing was adjourned.)
5. Textile recycling program
The board opened the public hearing on amendments to Proper5ty Maintenance law regarding collection bins
Howard Frank was the only person who spoke during the hearing. He suggested that the bins be located near fire hydrants and where there were street lights. He also called the board’s attention to two problem bins on Veterans Road across from the YCCC. In response to his comment that the property owners should pay a monthly fee, Supervisor Grace explained that there will be an annual fee for each bin.
The hearing was closed and the board adopted the new law with a 3-0 vote.
In a related action, the board awarded the RFP for picking up recycled textiles from town collection points to USAgain for one year. The company will pay 10cents per pound. Kim Angliss Gage, the Recyclnig Coordinator said that the new program would begin in 2015. In addition to being able to drop off items in five bins on town property, items will be able to be dropped off at the recycling office on 14 designated collection days. Also, clear plastic collection bags will be provided free of charge for pick up during the regularly schedule bulk pick ups.
6. Selected miscellaneous resolutions, passed unanimously
Police officer: appointed Michael Tillistrand
Bid awards: for various chemicals at the sewage treatment plant
YCCC rental rates. Approved a 1.5% rent increase for 2015, 1 3% increase for separate room rentals, and a 5% increase for gym rental.
Water bills: set a public hearing for November 18 to amend the code dealing with payment of water bills. The nature of the proposed change was not identified.