Town Board Gets Updates on Roads, Emergency Services Consolidation, Pathways and More

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

The Philipstown Town Board Thursday night (Sept. 2) got updates on money-saving roadwork, possible fire department consolidation, and the long-sought traffic light at Route 9 and Fishkill Road. The Board also sent draft legislation authorizing adoption of the Putnam Pathways program to the Planning Board for review.
       In a memo to the board, read by Councilwoman Betty Budney, Highway Department Superintendent Roger Chirico announced replacement of the Philipsebrook Road culvert at a cost of $32,000 — less than half the engineering estimate of $75,000. By doing the work itself, the department saved $43,000, “lifting the burden on taxpayers,” Chirico reported. Moreover, he stated, the work ended before the re-opening of schools, “making the road safer for our children and motorists.” 
       “You don’t see other highway departments doing projects like that,” Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea said. “It’s a big savings and a lot of work.”
       In other economizing, Shea announced that in negotiations the town had reduced the cost of the employee dental-care benefit, convincing the union, the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) “to go to a lesser plan.” Similarly, the town knocked $50 a month off the cost of renting a postage meter, he said, thanks to negotiations by Town Clerk Tina Merando. “They’ve really stepped up to save the town some money” in the Clerk’s Office, Councilwoman Barbara Scuccimarra observed.
       Councilman John Van Tassel said the town has learned that the New York State Department of Transportation approved the application for a traffic light at Route 9 and Fishkill Road, locally considered an extremely dangerous intersection, with the bidding process and other preliminary work to precede installation. “There was no time frame,” he cautioned. The town has awaited the traffic light for months. The fate of the town’s related request for a reduced speed limit also remains indefinite. “We haven’t heard a yea or nay,” Van Tassel said.
       The councilman reported that the pilot group of a task force on emergency services consolidation had met in August, with J. Ralph Falloon, a former chief of the Cold Spring Fire Company and a Cold Spring village trustee, as chairperson. The pilot panel’s first task will be reviewing the budgets of all the emergency services in the town, Van Tassel said. “It’s important to know we’re making the best use of taxpayer money,” Shea commented. “These are large sums. When you add them all up, it’s in excess of $2 million. That’s real money.”
       Van Tassel, a member of the North Highlands Fire Department, noted the cooperation demonstrated by several fire departments the previous night at a fire at Plumbush Inn, just outside Cold Spring. “I’d like to congratulate them all on a great job. It was very hot “¦ a stubborn basement fire. When I got there I thought for sure that building was going to go down,” he said. “The effort was incredible. There was damage, but hopefully they’ll be back up and running very quickly.” He later told Philipstown.info that responders included all four fire departments in Philipstown — Cold Spring, North Highlands, the Garrison Volunteer Fire Department and the Continental Village Fire Department — as well as those from across town or county lines.  “It was a great cooperative, consolidated effort,” under trying circumstances,” he said. “The heat was so intense the floor in that bar room was bubbling.”  
       The board also pushed ahead with participation in the Putnam Pathways and Greenway Compact, discussed at the August monthly meeting.  Pathways is the Putnam County version of the Greenway initiative. Through the Greenway, the state, counties and towns foster regional planning, especially in the areas of preservation of scenic, natural, historic, cultural and recreational resources and economic development. The board voted to send to the Planning Board and the Putnam County Planning Department a proposed law that will enable the town to adopt Pathways and become a Greenway Compact community.
       “This is something that will support the new zoning,” Shea said, referring to a rezoning awaiting board action later this fall. “The attorney general of the State of New York will defend [the town in] Article 78 challenges to the new zoning and that will save taxpayer money.” Other advantages come with participation, too, he explained. “This will allow us to apply for funds we wouldn’t be able to apply for without it.” Pathways supplies participants with a thick compendium of materials, including the Philipstown Comprehensive Plan, and other resources. “It’s got some real common sense things. These are recommendations the Planning Board can look at,” Shea said. “This does not have the force of law. It’s pretty straight-forward. We’re hoping our Planning Board does turn this around quickly for us.”   

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