Citizens for an Informed Yorktown


Town Board Work Session

August 14, 2012


1. Granite Knolls Barn

An item not on the agenda, the Board voted to have an asbestos study done on the building prior to any demolition. (Note: As the discussion was brief and not always audible, the observer cannot report anything more about plans for the site.)


2. Church of Latter Day Saints

The Church plans to repair its approximately 2-acre parking lot (some repaving, fixing broken curbs and sealing). The amount of land disturbance triggers a threshold that requires Town Board action to issue an erosion and sediment permit. The Board had no problem with the proposed action, voted to refer it out for review, and will schedule the required public hearing.


3. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church

An item not on the agenda, Councilman Bianco raised the issue of a pending addition to the living portion of the church and asked if anything could be done to waive the provision in the town code that required the church to submit its plans to ABACA. He explained that because the advisory board has a limited August meeting schedule, the church will lose a month’s time.  He wanted to know if the Building Department had any flexibility regarding the requirement.


4. IBM wetlands permit  and helistop

The company is planning to install a new underground fiber optic cable. Because, at one point, the cable will be located on top of an existing culvert, a wetlands permit is required. The Board had no problem with the application, referred it out, and set a public hearing for September 4.


At the suggestion of Supervisor Grace , the Board voted 4-1 with Councilman Bianco voting no, to recommend to the Planning Board that it approve the request for a special permit for the helistop.  Councilman Bianco said he voted against the resolution because he did not think it appropriate for the Town Board to get involved in a Planning Board issue.


5. Standardization of vehicles

The Board debated the pros and cons of standardizing the purchase of pick-up trucks. (As a copy of the proposed resolution was not available, it was not clear if it also included police cars. See later discussion.) The rationale for the standardization resolution was the need to conform to state bidding requirements and be able to eliminate the need to include the words “or alternate brands” in a bid spec. (See last week’s Board meeting that standardized the purchase of a specific type of equipment for ball field maintenance.)


As background, it was explained that the Town started standardizing the pick-up truck purchase several years ago on the suggestion of Highway Superintendent DiBartolo who was concerned that during snow plowing operations, if one truck went down, repair parts could be pulled from a similar truck. Acting Town Engineer Sharon Robinson reported that the Town now owned 48 Ford pick-up trucks and that the sewer department recently went out to bid for two new trucks and specified that they be Ford. 


Supervisor Grace, saying that he personally was a “Chevy guy” questioned the wisdom of not considering other models, especially if they might be cheaper.  In response to Comptroller Joan Goldberg commented that one of the pluses of purchasing the same brand was the ability to cannibalize parts, Supervisor Grace said that in recent years there were frequent changes in models that limited the interchangeability. He added that going out to bid for other brands, and not simply buying one brand off the state contract was a “good exercise.” Councilman Bianco said he wanted to get input on the issue from the mechanic at the central garage.


It was noted that while in the past the police purchased Ford Crown Vics that had specific high performance packages designed for police cars, that model is no longer available and that the Town would have to be purchasing other brands in the future.


No action was taken on the resolution.


6. Auction of surplus vehicles

An item not on the agenda, Supervisor Grace reported on the results of the auction of surplus vehicles and read off a list of the bid prices. After agreeing to remove two water department dump trucks and a DEC Mac truck that will be “sold” to the highway department, and a lawn mower that the parks and recreation department decided to keep and repair, the Board accepted the other bids. The dump trucks will be sold for $16,200 and the Mac truck for $6100. Supervisor Grace said that the highway department will scrap the body of the Mac truck and replace the burned out engine at a cost of about $26,000 – a considerable savings over the purchase of a new truck.


The Board also agreed to purchase a used truck for the sewer department from the Northern Westchester Joint Water Works. (The price was not discussed.)  While the Board had previously okayed the sewer department going out to bid for two new trucks, it was left open whether the Town might only end up purchasing one new truck.


7. Garbage contract bid

The Board okayed going out to bid for garbage and recycling collection for residential units in order to see if it could get a lower price than the lowest bid it accepted last year for CRP. (There was some confusion as to whether the bid award last year was for one year, with the option to renew for three years, or was for three years.)


The new bid specs will differ from the old specs in the following areas.


Prevailing wage

One of the reasons cited last year from the large increase in cost was that anyone bidding for the contract had to pay prevailing wages, a rate set by the state Department of Labor (DOL) for specific jobs and which was tied to union wages.


Citing sections of the state Labor Law, Supervisor Grace questioned whether the prevailing wage requirement applies to garbage collection for single family homes. He said he has received one document from the DOL that says that it does apply but also an appellate court decision that he said did not completely address the issue. He said he didn’t agree with the case law on the issue, although Town Attorney Koster disagreed with his “too literal” interpretation of the law.  Kim Gage, interim head of the Environmental Conservation Department, noted that the garbage trucks pick up at curbside and do not go to the actual buildings.


Because any new contract would have to be awarded by October 1 in order for the carter to be up and running by January 1, and because any court challenge on the prevailing wage issue would take time to decide, Supervisor Grace asked for and received the Board’s permission to file an “order to show cause” prior to October 1.   He said he would ask other municipalities to join in any future lawsuit, adding that he had one other town already interested in challenging the issue.  He added that the lawsuit would, at a minimum, let the public know what the prevailing wage requirement is costing residents.


As the Supervisor’s prevailing wage argument dealt with single family homes and not dwellings of three or more stories, it was not clear how the new bids specs would deal with Beaver Ridge, Wynwood Oaks and Trump Park, all of which exceed three stories.


The bid specs will ask for prices with and without the prevailing wage requirement.


How pricing is to be determined

In previous years, the price was based on the number of units that received pick-up services. Single family homes were counted as one unit and condos and apartment buildings were counted as .4 of a unit.


Supervisor Grace said that at a meeting he attended along with Councilman Paganelli, the carters had explained that they are concerned only with the number of stops they have to make and not the number of dwelling units. (Councilman Bianco said he knew nothing of such a meeting.) It was pointed out that in some condo units, residents place their garbage in large dumpsters while in others, their garbage is placed at curbside in front of the individual units.


The new specs will be based the cost on stops which Supervisor Grace said would incentivize residents in condo units to use central collection points.


Years of experience

In contrast to the former bid that required carters to have 10 years experience, the new bid will have no experience requirement.  Ms. Koster noted that in the past, the Town had had a five year experience requirement but that in the last bid, Patrick Lofaro, the former head of the Environmental Conservation Department had requested 10 years in order to cut down on the number of complaints.


Councilman Bianco, concerned that the absence of any experience requirement might encourage “fly-by-nights,” said he wanted to see some experience and Supervisor Grace said “let’s see when it (the bids) come in.” He explained that in the garbage business it was not unusual for companies to reformat themselves and he did not see any problems with “new” companies getting the needed start-up capital.


In response to Supervisor Grace’s comment that if a new carter did a poor job the Town could get rid of the carter, Councilman Bianco asked, “So who would pick up the garbage?” Councilman Murphy said that the Town had packer trucks and could do the pick-ups.


Bonding requirement

The new specs do not have a bonding requirement.  It was estimated that this could reduce the bid price by about $30,000.  Comptroller Joan Goldberg said that currently the carter is paid at the end of each month so that if the company didn’t pick up, it wouldn’t get paid.   Supervisor Grace said that even if the Town required a bond, collecting on the bond would be difficult.


8. Water Meters

The discussion focused on two issues: resident concerns about current bills and next steps for the meter project.


Billing issues

Some residents have experienced large bills after the new meters were installed and have complained to Town officials. Although there was no indication of how many complaints have been received, Supervisor Grace said about three a day with problems in the $400-$500 range, most of the discussion focused on what appeared to be a single complaint from someone who was told he owed $3,000.


Using actual old and new meters, Water Distribution Superintendent David Rambo explained to the Board that there were two “counters” in the old meters; one outside the house and one inside.  While the meter readers read the outside meter, once the old meter was taken out and checked, it showed the actual water consumption  which in some cases was higher. The resulting bill reflected the actual water that had been consumed but not billed for.


In the ensuing discussion, there was no consensus on how to deal with these adjusted bills. Councilman Paganelli noted that for some residents a perfect storm had occurred: the adjusted meter consumption, the 10% New York City pass thru approved at an earlier meeting, and the fact that the latest bill added a month to the billing cycle.  He said he was not comfortable charging anyone $3,000 because of a cumulative error that may not have been the owner’s fault.   Mr. Rambo said that there could be multiple reasons for the discrepancy between the two readings, one of which could have been the homeowner tapering with the outside meter. Supervisor Grace said that asking for the $3,000 was like “shaking people” for the last dollar. When Comptroller Goldberg asked Town Attorney Koster for advice on what the Town’s options were to collect the back charges, Ms. Koster said she did not want to give advice in public. In response to a similar question later in the discussion, Supervisor Grace asked for her advice in a written form.  She did add, however, that unpaid water bills are added to the property tax bills as liens.


Councilman Murphy  said that the Town should start fresh, forgiving the past charges and have the homeowner pay the correct amount going forward. 


Mr. Rambo advised the Board that the current Town Code includes a provision that permits residents, for a $5 fee, to request that their meter be tested for accuracy. Anticipating that the new meters may generate several requests for such testing, and anticipating the time it will take to remove, test and reinstall the meters, he suggested that the fee be increased to $85 to reflect actual costs.  Supervisor Grace directed him to prepare some draft legislation that could be set for a future public hearing.


Meter replacement project

Mr. Rambo advised the Board that 1,100 of the new meters had been installed. The old meters are testing at an average accuracy rate of 82%, with some coming in as low as 30-40-50%. He said that the company that is installing the new meters has been directed to change only the old meters.  Initially, the Board voted 4-1 with Supervisor Grace voting no, to okay going out to bid for the additional purchase of 500 new meters needed to complete the Phase I plan to replace the 2,500 old meters.  Later in the discussion, it appeared that the vote was put on hold and Supervisor Grace said that he might vote for the bid at the September 4 meeting.  


On the issue of moving ahead to upgrade the 7,500 existing touch read meters, Councilman Paganelli suggested that the Town wait one year so that he had a full year’s worth of data to analyze before proceeding.  Councilman Bianco didn’t see the need for the delay noting that the data was coming in good and that the project would pay for itself in less than eight years. Ms. Goldberg noted that as a result of the new technology, the Town could take the water billing function back from the Joint Water Works, and that together with other measures associated with the new technology, the water district could save $300,000 a year.


Supervisor Grace repeated his concern that the bid for Phase I had to be straightened out because it appeared that the Town had locked itself into a specific technology. In response, Councilman Bianco who was on the Board that awarded the first contract, said that there were other companies that were competitive and that the prior Board had had the necessary discussion.


9. Unsafe structure at 1481 Maiden Lane

The discussion focused on where the money was to come from to demolish the structure. (See July 17, 2012 meeting notes.)


Building Inspector John Winter advised the Board that a neighbor has been complaining about the site and that he continues to get no response from the property owner or her son who lives in the area. Town Attorney Koster said that the Town had been very careful to follow all the requirements leading up to the Town taking down the building but Supervisor Grace said the owner could still challenge the Town’s action and its lack of authority to demolish the structure.  Ms. Koster noted that the taxes are still being paid on the property and her opinion was that if the Town took the building down and the cost was placed as a lien on the property, the mortgage company was likely to pay off the lien.


No decision was made.


10. Septic permits for older homes

Building Inspector John Winter advised the Board that there appear to be no septic permits on file for some houses built between the 1930’s- 1950’s. He said that the county Department of Health has not been cooperative but that he thought the the regulations requiring a permit dated back to sometime after 1994. He explained that according to Town Code, his department can not issue a Certificate of Occupancy  (CO)without a septic permit.


Supervisor Grace told him not to get involved in what he considered to be a jurisdictional issue that  was the purview of the Department of Health  and to issue the CO and place a note in the file that there was no septic permit.


11. Holland Sporting Club

In a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Patel voting no, the Board decided to leave the chimney and bathroom building standing on the site. This paved the way for the building inspector to “sign off” on the demolition permit which had included the removal of both structures.  In voting to keep the bathroom building, Supervisor Grace said that it may be needed in the future.


Supervisor Grace reported that the oil tanks referred to in previous meetings by Councilman Patel had been taken out in 2007 and told Mr. Patel that he had been told this at the press conference. Councilman Patel said he had not been given this information.


Regarding the left over debris, Mr. Winter said that this was not a Building Department issue and that according to a conversation he had with Jeff Econom, a former Yorktown deputy town engineer, the debris was more of a “landlord” issue and that it was up to the Town whether it wanted to leave the debris buried on the site.  Mr. Patel remained concerned about the possible environmental hazards from the remaining debris and said he would contact the Conservation Board. Supervisor Grace said that the site was “fine” and he saw no problem with people playing in the wood chips if they wanted to.  He added that he was glad that the site had gotten the attention it needed and that a nuisance had been eliminated.


Supervisor Grace said that the wood chips at the entrance should be removed and replaced with a fence in the event Town staff needed to access the site. He added that in the fall, although the Town was in a fiscally tight situation, it should prepare a plan for the site and that the plan could deal with what’s left in the ground.


12. Feral cats

Acting on the request of Councilman Bianco, the Board unanimously authorized an additional $1,500 for the Trap Neuter Release (TNR) program for feral cats.  As of the meeting, only $400 remained of the original $1500 allocation in the 2012 budget.


13. Foreclosure

The Board voted to take title to the dock lots on the 2008 Foreclosure list and Supervisor Grace said that the Town had to figure out where the other town-owned dock lots were.


14. Outside appraisal

The Board okayed spending between $18,000-$24,000 for a specialized outside appraisal of the Treetops Nursing Home, aka Northern Westchester Restorative Care, as part of a tax certiorari challenge. At issue was whether the Town should spend the money when it would only have had to refund $34,000 as part of the settlement. The Lakeland School District would have to pay $154,000. The assessor will ask the Lakeland School Board to consider whether to share in the cost of the appraisal at its next meeting.


Supervisor Grace and Town Attorney Koster said it was the Town’s obligation to challenge the tax certiorari and that the Town had to look at the issue as a practical matter of cost versus savings.


15. Change in meeting schedule

The Board’s annual budget review sessions have been rescheduled to November 8 beginning at 12 noon and November 9 beginning at 9am.


16. Advertise for bids

In addition to the garbage bid, the Board voted to advertise bids for electrical work on Town buildings and for air conditioning maintenance and repair


17. Light at Route 202/Pine Grove

Supervisor Grace explained that the state DOT is requesting that the Town sign an agreement assuming responsibility for the maintenance of the light to be installed at Route 202 and Pine Grove Court. It was assumed that by “light,” the meaning was the traffic light and not a street light. Noting that the state maintains all the traffic lights along Route 202, Supervisor Grace said he would get back to the state on the issue.


18. Other selected resolutions

a. Shrub oak Athletic Club parcel. The club is interested in donating property at 1246 New Road to the Town. The Board referred out the request.

b. The Board extended contracts for street light maintenance, traffic signs, traffic light repair and asphaltic concrete laid-in-place