April 7, 2015
Sometimes, the board meets in what is called a “pre-session” to go over the agenda, executive session items like personnel or litigation, and last minute additions to the agenda. The meetings are typically held in the supervisor’s office. Except when the board votes to go into executive session, the meetings are open to the public
At the April 7 pre-session, held in a basement conference room in the library, the board discussed and decided on several last minute additions to the agenda and resolutions based on those discussions were drafted at the last minute and voted on at the end of the meeting. I expressed concern about these last minute additions and asked that in the future these types of issues be discussed at regular work sessions where the topics are on the agenda and the public knows what the board is discussing.
1. Bernstein House
Town Clerk Alice Roker advised the board that going forward the town will have to pay $350/month for the storage unit it has been using for many years that contains furniture and other items taken from the house many years ago. While she is planning to hold a garage type sale for the items, in the meantime, she suggested the town could either pay the monthly fee or move the items to another location until the sale is scheduled. Although Supervisor Grace offered the use of his barn for temporary storage, the board decided that rather than have town employees move the items twice, it made sense to pay the rent and move forward on scheduling the sale.
2. Unsafe structure on Stony Street.
(See Town Board, 3-24-2015) Building Inspector John Winter advised the board that the property owner has returned to the house and that social services agencies have not found an alternate living arrangement for him. While the town will appear in town court next week to argue that the structure is unsafe (the code equates unsanitary with being unsafe), Mr, Winter expressed his frustration as to what may happen in court and Supervisor Grace explained that the town has no power to protect a person from himself. (Note: A resolution addressing this issue was on the regular meeting agenda, but no action was taken.)
3. Staffing issues
The board agreed to upgrade the intermediate clerk position that will replace the retiring Refuse & Recycling clerk and to hire the retired clerk on an as needed part time basis after his retirement. The person will work for at least one month after is retirement to train his replacement, to cover department vacation time, and as needed in other town departments. The funds will come from the department’s existing seasonal help budget line.
The board also agreed to upgrade the position of a Highway Department employee who has been doing masonry work out of title. The employee will be working to repair the masonry in the town’s catch basins.
4. Highway road salt
(See Town Board 3/24/2015.) Based on other discussions Highway Superintendent Paganelli had had with some board members, he advised the full board that he was okay with delaying for three months the planned $490,000 budget transfer that had been previously discussed and which was on the board’s agenda for a vote that evening. Saying that the fund balance wasn’t an “endless pot,” Supervisor Grace explained that he wanted to wait for final 2014 fourth quarter revenue numbers for sales tax and mortgage tax before making the withdrawal.
Public safety: Councilman Bernard advised the public that he will be the liaison to the Police Department on public safety issues such as traffic.
Heroin: Councilman Diana announced the first meeting of his new heroin task force.
Spectra pipeline presentation: I announced that representatives of Spectra Energy will be at the April 14th work session meeting for a presentation on both the AIM and Atlantic Bridge projects. The presentation is scheduled for 7:30pm. Supervisor Grace was non-committal when I asked that the meeting be televised and that the public be allowed to ask questions directly to Spectra personnel.
Battle of Yorktown: Scheduled for April 18. Volunteers should contact the Refuse & Recycling Department.
Textile Recycling program: Unneeded textiles can be placed in special plastic bags available from the R&R Department, or in special green and white bins located in the commuter parking lot adjacent to town hall, the YCCC parking lot, at Sparkle Lake, the library and Shrub Oak Park.
Arbor Day: Friday, May 1, 4pm at Patriot Park, and May 2 for tree planting at Sylvan Glen
Highway Superintendent Paganelli explained that he’s in the process of evaluating the condition of town roads and deciding which ones will be paved this summer. He anticipates that the town will be able to pave between 5-6 miles with the available $683,000. The town has 205 miles of roads. In selecting which roads to do, he said priority is given to roads used by the most number of people. He also wants to include roads in different parts of town. His department is also exploring alternatives to black top paving for some less traveled roads.
He reported that 7 of the 23 storm events this winter happened on a Saturday thru Sunday when the town had to pay time and half and double time.
During my Report from the Board, I called attention to the many different town and county taxes that are listed individually on the tax bill that property owners received last week. I reminded residents that if they pay their taxes through their mortgage and don’t receive a bill, they can get a copy at the Tax Office in town hall. I noted that for the typical property with an assessed value of $10,000, the net increase of all town taxes, including water but not sewer, was $73.00.
During Courtesy of the Floor, Rose Marie Panio and Tony Grasso were critical of the increase which they blamed Councilman Patel and me for, and said that more of the fund balance should have been used to lower the increase. A third speaker, Stewart Glass, supported the more conservative use of fund balance as a more prudent long term financial plan.
In response, Supervisor Grace defended his vote on the budget and I explained that in November both Supervisor Grace and former Councilman Murphy had voted for the reduction in the use of fund balance and for adding over $300,000 in expenditures to the Preliminary Budget. Also, that Supervisor Grace had voted for the budget in December but that in December, Councilman Murphy voted against the very same budget he had voted for in November, knowing that his negative vote made no difference because there were three votes in support of the budget.
In response to Supervisor’s Grace comments about the tax levy, as distinct from the tax rate,, I suggested residents look at my explanation of the difference between the two numbers on my personal web site, www.yorktownbettergovernmwent.org.
4. Courtesy of the Floor
(See Town Board, 3-24-2015.) In response to comments by Miriam Curtin asking for changes in the rules governing Courtesy of the Floor and that all residents be treated the same way, there appeared to be a consensus on the board that Courtesy would be limited to three minutes (the clerk did use a timer during the meeting) but that there would be some flexibility, that there would be no back and forth dialogue between the speaker and a board member, except that Supervisor Grace said he wanted to retain the abililty to interpret someone he felt was making a false statement, and that comments, from both sides of the table, needed to be civil and courteous. There was no discussion on a proposal made at the March 24 meeting that the subject matter of comments made at the first courtesy be limited to topics on the agenda. Although not listed on the evening’s agenda, the supervisor did open the floor up to a second Courtesy.
5.Highway garage relocation/Depot Square
In response to comments by Ed Ciffone, Supervisor Grace explained that there would be no currents costs associated with proceeding with the plans to relocate the highway garage and prepare a site plan for a future commercial building. He said the size of the planned buildings was still not set and that more work had to be done before getting better estimates of site development costs. That information would be available, he said, if and when the project proved feasible. He reiterated his belief that it made sense to have plans for the buildings in order to take advantage of potential future grants (grants would not be available, he said, based on concepts) and also when other opportunities came up, such as an offer to buy some new steel buildings at a 50% discount, or pay nothing for used steel buildings he said were available in Peekskill. He also defended his statement that the new commercial building would create a walkable Yorktown, although he acknowledged that his comment about there being no reason to come to Yorktown now as being “rhetoric.”
Supervisor Grace added that there were errors in an article I had written about the project and which appeared in the local newspaper. He did not explain what the error/s were. (Click here for a copy of the article.)
6. Hunterbrook sewer district
In two separate votes, and without any discussion, the board voted unanimously to create the Hunterbrook sewer district extension and request that the county include the new district in the Peekskill Sanitary Sewer District. The district is a key part of the Costco plan.
7. Rezoning of two lots on East Main Street in Mohegan Lake
The board opened and closed the public hearing. There were comments. The board voted unanimously to approve the rezoning of two small parcels from O (Office) to C-3 (Highway Commercial).
Police Officer Mark Rapisarda was promoted to Police Sergeant.