Citizens for an Informed Yorktown


Town Board

February 7, 2012

(Councilman Bianco was absent)

1. Awards and Recognitions

The Board recognized two high schools students, Erin Marno (sp?) and Ashley Bonner (sp?) for their community fund raising efforts on behalf of cancer patients Senator Greg Ball recognized Kathleen Quinn, head of Support Connection, as the recipient of the Senator’s Distinguished Woman Award.

2. Senator Ball update

The Senator gave an update on initiatives in Albany to provide middle class tax relief and to promote economic development in the region.

3. Supervisor’s update

Supervisor Grace gave a report on recent meetings, including

a. Emergency preparedness. A tape of the meeting is being aired on Channels 20 and 33. The town is working on new emergency protocols to avoid certain communities such as Beaver Ridge from “falling through the cracks.” If the communities themselves don’t make an emergency plan, the supervisor said that the town may pass legislation requiring them to do so.  The town also plans to reactivate a Citizen’s Emergency Response Team program.

b. Community outreach.  A meeting of civic and charitable organizations. As a result of the meeting, the supervisor said that the United Way had contacted him and will make a database of volunteers available to the town. The supervisor called the meeting “awe inspiring” and said that many good ideas came out of the meeting. Future meetings are anticipated.

c. Town finances. The supervisor said the town is looking into purchasing some purchase order software to rectify what he called a serious problem involving the town’s current system of handling purchase orders and paying bills. He said that when he took office he learned that the town had $4 million in open purchase orders and that the practice of using blanket purchase orders defeated the purpose of the system. He also was concerned that some vendors had stopped selling to the town because their invoices had not been paid, and that any at any given time, he did not know what the town’s fund balance was.

4. Councilman’s update

Councilman Paganelli said that the town was going to institute the use of a saline solution when dealing with snow removal and that this practice would save the town money. He said the supervisor had learned about this practice at a meeting and that other towns, but not Yorktown, were using it.

5. Courtesy of the Floor

a. Museum.  Gregory Krasov repeated comments made at earlier meetings about his plan to raise money for the museum and wanted to know when the board would act on his proposal. Supervisor Grace said that the topic would be put on a work session agenda, possibly at the end of February. Councilman Paganelli said that the board couldn’t just dismiss people who had been handling the museum for six years.

b. Assemblyman Stephen Katz said he supported Tom DeChiaro and his efforts at the Winery (a topic to be addressed later in the agenda), that he would be holding a press conference later this week about a plan to save $150,000, and about the voter ID legislation he has introduced.

c. Costo/Traffic: Paul Moskowitz talked about traffic problems on Route 202 and wanted the board to approve hiring a traffic consultant to review the Costco traffic plan. In response, Supervisor Grace said that the town had scheduled a meeting with Route 202 stakeholders and state officials for February 23rd at 9am in town hall to discuss private investment along the corridor.  Referring to the long range plan for the extension of the Bear Mountain Parkway he said that the town was going to start the discussion in earnest and not wait for Cortldant.  He said that the town had authorized the Costco traffic study.

d. Costco: Jonathan Nettlefield, chairman of Yorktown Smart Growth, presented the board with a copy of a report, “The True Costs of Costco.” He said the group didn’t dislike Costco but that the whole story hadn’t been told. In response, Supervisor Grace said that his point of view had been heard and hadn’t been ignored.

e. Trees: William Kellner, chairman of the Tree Conservation Advisory Commission, advised the board that the Arbor Day Foundation, working in conjunction with the US Forest Service, has approved Yorktown’s designation  as a Tree City USA in recognition of the town’s efforts to protect its trees and forests.  He credited Keith Schepart, a member of TCAC, with suggesting the idea 15 years ago as well as past boards, supervisors and volunteers who, over the years, helped fulfill the requirements for the designation. He also announced that this year’s Ardor Day celebration will be held on May 4th at the Patriot Garden.

f. Water Department: Joe Bonana (sp?) of J&J Backflow, accompanied by local plumber Dave Goldberg, charged that it was unethical and a conflict of interest for the town to do the required annual backflow testing and charging money for it. Initially he said that in 2009, the town charged $55 for the inspection, but later said the amount was about $150 this year.  He also objected to the town’s denial of his FOIL request last year for the names of local businesses that had backflow devices and said that the town’s practices put his company at a disadvantage. Highway Superintendent DiBartolo, who was in charge of the Water Department from 2008-2009, responded that in 2009 the town was notified by the county that it was not in compliance with the Department of Health’s backflow requirements and that a town program was established and town staff trained. He said there was no conflict of interest. He added that private companies charge $300 for the test and that the town was not running the program like a private business. Supervisor Grace said that there were restrictions in the Freedom of Information Law that governed the release of the list that J&J had requested and that he would look into the other issues with David Rambo, the Water Distribution Superintendent.

g. Emergency Notification System: Susan Siegel (the person writing this summary) asked the board a series of questions dealing with a pending contract to purchase the Verizon 911 phone list for the town’s Emergency Notification Program, the status of the foreclosure proceedings for  55 properties remaining properties on the list that owe $1.8 million in back taxes, and the board’s intentions regarding the de-consolidation of building maintenance. The board did not respond to her questions but when Ms. Siegel asked about the 911 contract again in the second courtesy of the floor, Councilman Paganelli said that there were other ways to get information to the public during emergencies and that the board was considering other uses for the grant money that the town had received to set up the Emergency Notification System. Supervisor Grace said that there would be further discussions on the issue. (Note: some of Ms. Siegel’s other comments were addressed during the board’s vote on budget transfers involving building maintenance. See below.)

6. Public Hearing on Underhill Avenue speed limit

After closing the public hearing, the board voted 4-0 to increase the speed limit on Underhill Avenue, from Route 118 to the northbound ramps of the Taconic Parkway to 40mph from the current 30mph. Supervisor Grace explained that the speed limit had been 40mph when Underhill was a county road but that when the town took over the road several years ago as part of the Legacy field project, the speed limit was reduced to 30mph. He said that the average speed on the road was 48 mph and that studies have shown that slow moving vehicles can be a cause of accidents. He did not think that raising the limit would increase the current speeds.

William Kellner and Jonathan Nettlefield suggested that the change to 30mph start somewhere on the hill leading to the Taconic and both Supervisor Grace and Highway Superintendent DiBartolo said they would look into the possibility of installing a blinking “intersection ahead” type of light in order to caution people proceeding down the hill.

7. Bid Award

In a 4-0 vote, the bid to print town letterhead and envelopes and the Environmental Conservation mailer was awarded to Shop Smart Central, dba Chase Press and to Accel Pritning for the senior newsletter.

8. Advertise bids

a. In a single 4-0 vote, the board voted to advertise bids for Water Department materials, sweatshirts for the Highway Department, and athletic equipment and games for the parks and Recreation Department.

b. Holland Sporting Club: In a separate 3-1 vote with Councilman Patel voting No, the board voted to advertise for the rental of containers for the demolition of the Holland Sporting Club. In voting against the bid advertisement, Mr. Patel wanted an itemized list of all the expenses likely to be incurred if the town did the demolition job and said he wasn’t comfortable with the a la carte approach.

Supervisor Grace said that the town estimates it will need about 30 containers and that the job will take three days. The only additional cost will be the diesel fuel to run the equipment. Both Supervisor Grace and Councilman Murphy said that the town had all the equipment it needed to do the job (Highway Superintendent DiBartolo said he had the excavator and claws needed for the job) and Councilman Paganelli said that during a time of budget crunch, the town should do what he could to save $36,000. Mr. DiBartolo said that the foundations would be filled in with wood chips from the Hill and that if they “sunk” over time, more would be added. He said that the existing foundation stones would be stored on the Hill and made available to town residents. Mr. Paganelli added that the town should have faith in its employees and not denigrate them.

During the second Courtesy of the Floor, Susan Siegel asked for a clarification on the bid and whether it included disposal costs. Mr. Paganelli said that the bid was for “drop and pull” and “per ton” and that while the town did not know exactly how many containers it would need, the town would still be saving money even if the original 30 container estimate was increased to 50 containers. Mr. Grace said that the low bidder for the demolition work would be asked to extend his bid so that it would still be valid after the bids came in for the container rental.

9. St. George’s Winery Temporary Certification of Occupancy

In a 4-0 vote, the board approved a temporary 90 day CO for the Winery that was conditioned on the Building Inspector certifying that all building code issues had been addressed. The exterior site plan issues still need to be addressed.

Winery owner Tom DeChiaro told the board that all 66 items on the Building Department’s punch list had been addressed and that he expected a final inspection by the building inspector the following day. He thanked the building department for its cooperation.

Supervisor Grace explained that due to a communications mishap, Mr. DeChiaro had not appeared at the most recent Planning Board meeting but that he would attend next week’s meeting to discuss his plan to revise his site plan. Instead of proceeding with the parking plan that was approved last year, he now wants to use a plan reviewed several years earlier when a former owner was contemplating a restaurant on the site. The earlier plan includes using a portion of a town owned property that’s in a wetland buffer and would involve a land swap with the Winery. Mr. Grace called this new plan, which he said was being initiated by the town, would improve the existing wetland area and was a better plan.  We want to  “do it right,” he said and fast track the review for this revised plan which will need a wetlands permit.  In response to a suggestion from Susan Siegel that the board hold off voting on the CO until next week when it would have the benefit of the Planning Board’s comments, as well as comments she suggested the board get from the Mohegan Fire Department, Supervisor Grace said that the temporary CO was needed in order not to hold up the Winery’s opening. If the plan and work can’t be completed within 90 days, he said, the town can extend the temporary CO.

Mr. DiChiaro said he also plans to submit a rezoning request, but wasn’t sure if it would be for a commercial or transitional zone.

Both Mr. Grace and Paganelli cited the value of the Winery hosting community fund raising events and its roll in job creation.

10. Sultana Ridge, Inc. Resolution (Foreclosure proceeding)

With three affirmative votes and an abstention from Councilman Patel, the board voted to remove Sultana Ridge, Inc. from the 2008 foreclosure proceeding. In support of the resolution, Councilman Paganelli said that the action would not set a precedent and that the owners did have a plan “to try” to pay the back taxes over two years. If they don’t, he said, the town can revisit the issue after two years. Supervisor Grace said the vote was a way to help the owners help the town, repeating comments he made at an earlier meeting that it didn’t make sense for the town to take the property in an in rem proceeding which would take the property off the tax rolls and also create a liability for the town. He said he resented the implication that the board was giving special treatment to some people.

11. Budget Transfers for Building Maintenance

In a 4-0 vote, the board voted on a series of budget transfers that eliminated a provision in the 2012 budget that consolidated all building maintenance staff into one budget line item under the supervision of the building inspector. The resolution put the funds for a maintenance employee back in the library budget and funds for two maintenance employees in the police department budget.

Supervisor Grace explained that the change was the result of lots of discussion and the concern not to dilute the duties of the building inspector. The Winery, he said, was a perfect example of the building inspector doing what he was supposed to be doing instead of mopping floors.  Councilman Murphy said the return to the deconsolidated approach offered more checks and balances and that building inspector Winter said that he was happy not to have to micro manage the other departments. In response to Councilman Patel’s questions who would keep track of things if there were leaks, Mr. Grace said he planned to have an inventory done of each building. He said that Mr. Winter would make himself available as a resource to the other departments. When asked during the second courtesy of the floor who would supervise maintenance at the YCCC and Town Hall, he said that the town’ Human Resources person would sign the time sheets for those employees.

12. Other Resolutions

In a 4-0 vote, and without any discussion, the board approved the following resolutions

a. extension of several contracts for equipment maintenance and uniform cleaning services for the Police Department

b. IMAs with the county for a Traffic Safety Grant Program and equipment relating to weapons of mass destruction

c. garbage license for Frontline Waste Management

13. Appointments

a. Margaret Groccia was appointed Senior Library Clerk

b. Ray Arnold as appointed to the Cable Committee.

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Energy Stimulus Grant

At the conclusion of the regular meeting, the board went into work session mode for a discussion of how to use the remaining funds in the $158,000 energy stimulus grant the town received in 2009. Attending the meeting were Assistant Planner Lorraine DeSisto and Jerry Robock and Paul Moskowitz of the town’s Energy Advisory Committee.  Mr. Robock explained that for several reason, some of the original projects were not able to move forward and the town has 6 weeks to come up with alternative projects that need to be approved by the Department of Energy.  Some of the proposed new projects include lighting upgrades in town buildings, the installation of charging stations for electric vehicles in the commuter lot in Yorktown Heights, the library parking lot, and the small town owned lot  in Mohegan off Route 6, completion of the greenhouse gas inventory that was started but never completed, a “green” comfort station at Railroad Park, solar lighting for the planned Pinesbridge Memorial and lighting associated with a proposed Farmers Market at the Railroad Station park. Ms. DeSisto will refine the list before contacting the Department of Energy. Plans to use some of the funds to replace entry doors at the YCCC were dropped after Ms. DeSisto explained that she couldn’t get any vendors interested in the project. Supervisor Grace said that maintenance staff could do some weather stripping work on the doors which otherwise were in good condition.

The board rejected some possible solar projects given their 25 year pay back period. Board members liked the charging station idea and felt it would bring good publicity to the town and possibly pave the way for the town to apply for a grant to purchase electric vehicles for town use.  As part of the discussion of the green comfort station, Ms. DeSisto advised the board that that plan was part of a larger $500,000 plan for the renovation of the station and that the town had a commitment from the NYS Department of Transportation for $300,000 for the project.

As part of the discussion, Supervisor Grace said that one idea that he was considering was relocating the highway department to a new  “butler” type building on the Hill, at an estimated cost of $200,000, and selling off the land where the garage is currently located. Councilman Paganelli suggested that considering that the current site has been used for so many years as a highway garage there might be contamination problems that could hinder a future sale.