Citizens for an Informed Yorktown



Town Board Special Work Session

February 24, 2016



Two interviews for town engineer position



Part of ongoing process of “overview”  meetings with department  heads. This meeting dealt with the Highway and Legal Departments.


Highway Department

Highway Superintendent Dave Paganelli outlined the following department issues/needs


1. Paving. For small paving jobs, the department has borrowed a paving machine from other towns.  A new machine would cost $130,000.  For town-wide paving, he said that if the department can only do 6 miles a year,  that would put the town on an unacceptable 33 year cycle.   In addition to the state CHIPS money of about $450,000/year, he said the town could consider a bond as other towns have done.  Another source of funds discussed but ruled out was the $30/year open space fee. (See discussion below under Town Attorney about this fund.)


2. Sidewalks.  More needs to be done to repair existing sidewalks. No money amount or plan was discussed.


3. Infrastructure needs.  He called attention to the fact that much of the town’s infrastructure was 50-60 years old and will need replacing.  Two projects that need immediate attention are a bridge on Old Crompond Road (behind McDonalds) and a retaining wall on Mohegan Avenue.  He has a preliminary estimate from the town’s bridge consulting engineer for the design of the former.  He said that the Mohegan project, for which specs have already been prepared and which would cost about $200,000, needs to be done over the summer as there is no detour route for school buses.


4. New highway garage. In response to questions from Supervisor Grace, Mr. Paganelli said that the current garage, with administrative space, is roughly 17,000 sf and that Parks Department currently has about 3,600 sf. (it was not clear of this space was just the Parks garage at Downing Park or if it also included the administration trailers at Sparkle Lake.)  If highway had to share a new 20,000 sf building with Parks, he said that to provide sufficient space for his trucks and equipment, a second story might be needed for administration and/or storage. Unclear was where the Parks trailers would go.


5. Trucks. Although the department has been able to purchase several new trucks over the  past two years,  he indicated that some of the existing inventory also needs to be replaced.  He gave the board an inventory list with vehicles classified either in “good” or “not good” condition.


6. Mulch at Greenwood St. Supervisor Grace advised the board that the repaired “beast” machine would be returned to the town. This led to a brief discussion of how the town should dispose of the end product of different categories of mulch. No decision was made. (SeeTown Board 11-12-2015.)


7. Street sweeper . A new one would cost $285,000, but preferred option would be to subcontract out work at a cost of $70,800 for 3 years ($23,616 per year). Note: Town is required to perform this function as part of its stormwater compliance program


8. Catch basins. As part of stormwater program, town is required to inspect/clean 20% of its 5,700 catch basins a year. To contract out would cost $55/basin, or $62,000/year.To do in house,  department needs a vactor truck. A new one would cost $380,000. Alternately, and the best option would be to repair the existing vactor shared with sewer department for about $80,000. A third option is borrowing the Water Department’s vactor.


9. Detention ponds. Located  throughout town, these need to be cleaned. Mr. Paganelli suggested this could be done over the summer by assigning one person, with summer help.


Legal Department

Town Attorney Michael McDermott outlined a series of legislation he will be looking into.  


1. Industrial Advisory Board (Section 485B): He advised the board that before it can pass a law to grant tax relief for existing commercial properties that are revitalized, the town must create an advisory board that must issue a report identifying what types of businesses and in what parts of town would be eligible for the relief.  There are few guidelines for who the members of the new board should be; one option might be certain department heads and a representative of the Chamber. He wasn’t sure if the Town Board could constitute itself as the advisory board.  If and when the town approved a local law, the relief would only apply to town taxes. Supervisor Grace said he has already had discussions with the Yorktown School district and they appeared to be in favor of the program as it would apply to relief for school taxes.


Mr. McDermott has prepared draft legislation creating the advisory board and it will be scheduled for a public hearing.


2. Open Space Fund. This was a multi part discussion about the flat $30/year fee that every property owner pays . The fee was approved by referendum many years ago. The fee, which raises approximately $400,000 a year, is used to pay off bonds that are used to pay for the acquisition of open space. (See Town Board, 4-10-2012.)


a. Use of existing revenue. Supervisor Grace stated that after the bond for the Granite Knolls purchase will be paid off this year, there is no future need for the $400,000/year that the fee generates. During the discussion with Mr. Paganelli, it was agreed that the money could not be used for paving; it can only be used for acquisition of open space. It cannot be used for park operation  or maintenance expenses.


b. Reimbursement for previous acquisition costs. Supervisor Grace asked the attorney to research whether monies used to acquire parkland before the $30 fee went into effect could be reimbursed from the fee’s future revenue. He cited $750,000 taken from the Trust & Agency Fund (residential developers pay into this fund based on $10,000/approved lot if the subdivision does not include any recreation land) for Turkey Mountain and $400,000 from the General Fund (It was not clear what acquisition this money was used for.)


c. Ending the fee. Noting that there is no sunset provision in the existing law setting up the fee, Supervisor Grace suggested that in the future the town may want to have a referendum that would add a sunset provision and correct what he called “the sins of the past.”  In response, Councilman Patel defended the fee, saying that had the money not been there, the town would not have been able to purchase Granite Knolls.  The supervisor  said that If the voters approve the referendum, the town could then have a referendum on whether to bond for road paving. He suggested that if given the choice between the two fees, voters would opt for the road fee.  He said that if, in the future, the town wanted to acquire a critical piece of open space, it could do so by using eminent domain.


3. Code updates. He will be working with the building inspector to prioritize the list of code sections that need updating.  He specifically mentioned the Property Maintenance Code that allows the town to make repairs to private property, e.g., vacant property, and put a lien on the property for the cost of the repair.


4. Escrow law. He will work with the comptroller to review this law with the goal of eliminating fees that developers pay as part of the approval process.     


5. Tree Ordinance.  He will be working with Bruce Barber on changes. None were specified.


6. Affordable housing. Supervisor Grace asked the attorney to look into the legality of the law’s required set aside for affordable housing units. Stating that Westchester County municipalities are the only locations with such laws, he said the federal government cannot tell us what to do. He called the set aside an unconstitutional impact fee.  In lieu of the set aside, he said the town might consider a density bonus which would not be a tax but which would be given in consideration.


In a related discussion, the supervisor asked the attorney to research whether $400,000 in an Affordable Housing Trust Fund (funded years ago based on a local law no longer in effect) and which hasn’t been used in years could be transferred to the General Fund.


7. Wetlands Ordinance. He advised the board that he has not yet spoken to Mr. Barber who has been working on revisions to this code, including definitions, adding an appeal process, and provisions dealing with the functionality of wetlands.


8. Bid documents. He is working on an updated set of general conditions that can be used as a template in all bid documents that reflect changes in laws governing bids and contracts.