Town Board Work Session
August 11, 2015
Personnel and litigation
1. Update on Jefferson Valley Mall
Work is about to begin on the renovation and upgrade of the JV Mall.
Steve Shea, Simon vice president for development, together with the engineer and architect on the project gave the board an update on how the work will proceed in three phrases. (Although the mall has been sold, Simon has a contract with the new owner to implement the renovation and continue the leasing and management of the mall.)
Phase I will be the demolition of the old theater area and preparation of the space for a sports equipment and apparel retailer. The work may take to the end of the year.
Phase 2, which will begin as soon as the demolition work is completed, will include renovations to the north and south facades of the building including new outward facing entries for the stores, as well as extensive landscape enhancements. Simon Properties anticipates that the new tenant for the vacated theater space will be able to open for the 2016 holiday season.
Phase 3 involves some additions to both the north and south entry areas, including some new restaurants. The timing on this phrase is, in Simon’s words, “tenant driven,” with the expectation that once prospective tenants see the work being one on Phase 2, they’ll be interested in leasing space.
Simon will not have to come back to the Town Board for any additional approvals.
2. Water meter project and other water district issues
Water Superintendent David Rambo presented the board with revised numbers on the 1,600 meters that had been replaced and were tested for accuracy. Using guidelines from the American Waterworks Association, he calculated that the town lost approximately $118,000 in yearly revenue from the old meters. Supervisor Grace repeated his argument that the potential revenue to be gained by installing the new, more accurate meters to the remaining 7,500 customers did not generate a sufficient return on investment to warrant spending $3 million to complete the meter project. He wanted the fund balance used to improve the system’s infrastructure instead of “chasing” water loss from meters.
With it clear that only Councilmen Patel and I supported the project, Mr. Rambo said he would table the meter project and instead focus on reducing water loss by replacing values and hydrants and proceed with other capital projects, including painting the water storage tanks at a cost of $500,000 each and a new GIS system. Because of the delay in getting Board of Health approval for the cement lining project, the project will not be done until next year, with bids expected to be advertised in Jan/Feb.
Mr. Rambo also itemized the need for two new vehicles: a storage van (an item eliminated from the 2015 budget) and a new vactor truck that would cost between $300,000-$400,000. The current vactor would be “sold” to the highway department to replace its aging truck that is shared with the sewer department.
In response to my follow up questions about metering, Mr. Rambo explained the following.
1. The department is installing the new meters in existing meter pits (meters that are buried in the ground); of the approximately 800 pits, about 300 have been done. This work will continue.
2. According to town code, commercial water meters are required to be tested for accuracy every three years. To the best of his knowledge, Mr. Rambo said this probably hasn’t been done in over 10 years, even though some users, such as restaurants, are large consumers of water. I requested that he review department records and prepare a list for the board of large users whose meters haven’t been tested in several years.
3. Yorktown supplies water to parts of Cortlandt, Somers and Putnam Valley. Mr. Rambo will review the contracts with these towns to see if there is any requirement that the accuracy of these meters be tested at regular intervals. (The town buys water from New Castle for IBM and the Kitchawan Water District; New Castle requires the town to test the meter every year.)
Supervisor Grace suggested that when a house is sold, the new owners be required to install the new meters.
3 Dogs at the DeVito Veterans Memorial Field
Patricia Mckehnie, Rick Romanski and a third gentleman asked the board to do something about dogs who urinate and defecate on the field and track, as well as creating other problems that could jeopardize the safety of children and other people in and around the field. Mr. Romanski, who runs the Yorktown Youth Soccer Club that uses the field, noted that the problem has gotten worse in recent years and that it’s difficult to tell people not to bring their dogs to the track when there are signs that say “Curb Your Dog.” Ms. Mckenchnie said she has observed people getting out of their cars with the express purpose of giving their dogs an opportunity to relieve themselves.
To deal with the problem in the short term, Councilman Diana said he has had conversations with the police chief about having the town’s animal control warden patrol the site and give out violation notices. The long term solution, Supervisor Grace said, would involve a change in the town law that allows dogs in public parks. He suggested one option could be prohibiting dogs on the active playing field; both Ms. Mckenchnie and I didn’t think this would solve the problem but would only move it to the paved track or the grassed area on the outside of the track. Supervisor Grace expressed concern that dog owners would not want any restrictions.
The town attorney will draft a local law (it was not clear exactly what it would say) and the supervisor said the board would “run it up the flagpole.”
4. Spectra AIM stormwater permit
Environmental Consultant Bruce Barber advised the board that the state was satisfied with the stormwater permit (SWPP) and that Spectra had responded to the town’s earlier questions about the SWPP. While Supervisor Grace said that the pigging station would be moved out of Yorktown as part of the Phase 2 Atlantic Bridge project, I noted that the revised SWPP stated the pigging station, still in the design phase, would be located on Spectra’s right-of-way at Stoney Street and that once the design was completed, the company would submit a revised SWPP.
The board authorized the supervisor to accept the SWPP and sign the required MS4 acceptance form with the additional language that the acceptance was subject to review of any revised plans.
In Rem parcels
The board authorized the attorney and appropriate staff to take needed actions to clean out and secure the property at 1829 French Hill Road now that the illegal occupant has been evicted from. Once cleaned up, the property will be sold at auction.
The board also voted to refer out to various advisory boards a list of 10 vacant parcels the town has taken in rem as part of the 2009 foreclosure petition.
Regarding the unresolved properties from the 2008 foreclosure petition, Ms. Koster said that one homeowner had paid up the back taxes and a second had put her house up for sale. A third parcel remains at issue.
Ms. Koster is currently working with a list of unpaid taxes from 2010– 2013 in preparation for a new foreclosure petition in the event the property owners don’t pay their back taxes or enter into an installment agreement to pay them.
6. Ethics Law Update
After it was clarified that the board had never passed a resolution it had discussed at its May 26, 2015 meeting, the board voted to hire an outside attorney to review the existing Ethics Law and report back orally on recommendations for possible changes. It was not clear if the resolution would request the report by September or October.
7. Hallocks Mill Sewers
In what became a very heated and politicized discussion, Supervisor Grace said he was opposed to sending the informational letter I had drafted to the approximately 200 homeowners who may be able to obtain sewer permits for a hook up to the town’s sewage treatment plant. (The letter was a follow up to comments I had made at the August 4th meeting.) The supervisor saw no need to send the letter and felt it could jeopardize the ongoing negotiations with the DEC on the new SPDES permit. He expressed concern that too many homeowners might want permits.
My position was that it was unfair that only certain people knew about the availability of the permits and every eligible property owner should have the information; I noted that not every homeowner reads the local newspaper or watches board meetings. When it became clear that a majority of the board was opposed to the letter being sent, I said I would likely send the letter out on my own given my past involvement with the sewer issue. Councilman Bernard then accused me of politicizing the issue and Supervisor Grace took exception to what he considered to be an inference that I was accusing him of favoritism.
8. Community Care Facility zoning amendment
On the agenda for discussion was a revised draft of the zoning amendment I had put together incorporating comments from several advisory boards. The discussion on the substance of the text never really took place as from the onset Supervisor Grace and Town Attorney Koster repeated their opposition to any new text that dealt with sober living residences. Calling the draft “garbage,” the supervisor said that the current zoning code that allowed sober living residences as convalescent homes was “perfect” and Ms. Koster said she had problems with almost every sentence and that the law would not stand up to judicial scrutiny. When I suggested that the draft be formatted into a local law and advertised for a public hearing so that the public could comment on it, Ms. Koster said she could not do it because the draft was so wrong. She also cautioned that comments about “those people” that might be made at a public hearing would hurt the town if the law was ever challenged. When she said she would consider sending the town’s insurance company a copy of the draft law, I asked why since there was no pending lawsuit challenging the law that was still in draft form.
After I said I would do the formatting, I made a motion to proceed with the local law but the motion was defeated 2-3 with only Councilman Patel and myself voting for it. Supervisor Grace said the only reason I was pursuing the amendment was because I had made a campaign promise to do so.
9. Croton Heights Road bridge repair
The board authorized the supervisor to sign permanent and temporary easements with two property owners that were needed to provide access for the repair of the bridge; one homeowner has already agreed to the easement and the supervisor was anticipating agreement from the second owner. As soon as the agreements are signed, the repair work can begin.
10. Garbage contract renewal
The town exercised its option and voted to renew the garbage collection contract with Competition Carting for 2016 at the same price. This is the second of three possible extensions.
NOTE; The next Town Board meeting will be September 1st.