By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
The Philipstown Town Board’s agenda last week ran the gamut from dogs to fire department consolidation, Peekskill Road traffic hazards, and unapproved operation of commercial businesses on town property.
During their formal monthly meeting Nov. 4, the town supervisor and four council members also noted that work on the fiscal 2011 budget continues. They scheduled a meeting for approving the final budget for Nov. 18, the same evening as a public hearing on a proposed dog-control law.
“We have to encourage people to license their dogs,” Councilman John Van Tassel said. The dog-control initiative would replace the existing, 4-page dog law, part of the overall town code, with a new, 20-page version. “I don’t think it’s going to be a contentious issue,” Supervisor Richard Shea said. The draft law goes into far more detail than the current code in regard to various dog-owner rights and responsibilities, including licensing and use of identification tags. Moreover, it adds new sections on dangerous dogs and protection of deer.
The proposed law would require owners to pay a fee and license all dogs 6 months old or older, with the exception of dogs in shelters or similar situations, and to present proof the dog has been vaccinated against rabies. At all times, each licensed dog also would have to wear an identification tag issued by the town. Should ownership of a licensed dog change, the new owner would have to file a formal notification with the town within 10 days; if dogs are lost or stolen, owners would also have to notify the town within 10 days but doing so would relieve them of any responsibility if offenses involving the dogs subsequently occur. The Town Clerk’s office would handle licensing. The draft does not specify the amount of the licensing fee, which the Town Board would set separately. But the draft does stipulate that the fee for an un-spayed or unneutered dog must be at least $5 more than that for a spayed-neutered animal. At present, total licensing fees are $7.50 for a spayed-neutered dog and $20.50 for one not spayed or neutered.
The draft law also allows the seizure of any dog which is not wearing tags and is off the owner’s property; is not licensed, even if on the owner’s property; is acting in a dangerous manner (even if licensed) or otherwise considered “an immediate threat to the public safety.” The town would have to notify the owner and a dog seized for not wearing a tag could be reclaimed by the owner, for a fee, which would rise for repeat offenses.
Under the proposed deer-protection, whenever the Town Board finds “that the deer population in the town or part thereof is suffering severe depredation due to dogs attacking, or chasing deer,” it can “require that all dogs in the town “¦ be securely confined” until the termination of the order. Dogs not confined can be seized by the town dog control officer or police. The law would also allow the dog-control officer or police, if seeing a dog “attack, chase, or worry any deer,” to “destroy or seize and destroy such dog” without incurring any liability. The provision would exempt dogs under control of their owners in “shooting preserves.” The new law would also allow someone to kill a dog that is violently attacking him or her or another person or a pet or farm animal without justification.
Consolidation of services study authorized
In other action, the board authorized Shea to hire Ron Graner of RFG Fire Rescue Consulting to conduct a study as part of town efforts to explore possible consolidation of Philipstown’s fire departments and rescue-emergency medical services. A former Philipstown resident who became a fire chief in three municipalities outside New York State, Graner graduated from Haldane High School and served as a volunteer with the now-defunct Nelsonville fire department. In his proposal to the town, Graner said his role would be “to evaluate the current fire and rescue service delivery, determine the needs of the community and fire and rescue services now and in the future, and present a plan to improve the safety of the public and those who provide those emergency services within an efficient and cost-effective system.” He stated that his report “will provide specific recommendations” and that “the driving force behind this project and all recommendations “¦will be to address the primary question: What is in the public’s best interest?”
“I can’t tell you how helpful he’s been” already, said Council Member Nancy Montgomery, who with Van Tassel is spearheading the Town Board’s review. In related action, the board authorized Shea to sign a contract with the state for an $8,850 grant to underwrite the consolidation study.
Traffic on Peekskill Road
The board also discussed dangerous traffic on Peekskill Road, which runs alongside the Cold Spring Cemetery between Main Street-Route 301 in Nelsonville and Route 9D just south of Cold Spring. Van Tassel said that heavy truck traffic is so intense that “there is one resident on Peekskill Road whose house literally is getting knocked off the foundation every time a tractor-trailer comes through.” He said he had visited the site between 2 and 3 one afternoon with the Putnam County Sheriff Don Smith and “I could not believe the amount of traffic.” Anthony D. “Ande” Merante, a Nelsonville trustee, cited threats to the bridge, too. “You can see where the concrete and metal is deteriorating.” The bridge carries Peekskill Road over Foundry Brook.
Van Tassel said he had conferred with Mayor Seth Gallagher of Cold Spring and a highway expert and would also involve Nelsonville Mayor Tom Corless, who could not make the first meeting. One possibility, making trucks use 9D, creates problems in Cold Spring, he pointed out. He said another possibility would be to make Peekskill Road a village street, so that the speed limit could be reduced to 15 miles per hour. “This is all going to be worked out between the town and the two villages,” he said. Van Tassel also said that county plans repairs to the road and bridge, with the work to commence next spring.
Many trucks and other vehicles seem to use Peekskill Road to avoid traffic signals. When proceeding northbound on Route 9D, by veering right onto Peekskill Road they can skip the light in Cold Spring at Route 9D (Chestnut Street-Morris Avenue) and Main Street (Route 301); by continuing up Peekskill Road to Main Street-301 in Nelsonville and then cutting over to Fishkill Road, they can get to Route 9 without having to stop at the light at Routes 301 and 9 east of Nelsonville.
Peekskill Road traffic “has been an ongoing issue, forever,” Shea said. Three generations ago, he added, a Peekskill Road resident got so fed up he blasted the bridge into oblivion. “One day the bridge was there. He said `that’s never going to last.’ He helped it go fast.”
Illegal use of Town property
The board also decided it needs a firmer policy to deal with private businesses that usurp town property, as in the case of a parcel in Continental Village. Council Member Betty Budney reported numerous calls from the community and raised fears of pollution to nearby Cortlandt Lake from “leaking oil and dumping.” Board members discussed such options as posting signs, more patrols by the sheriff’s department, towing of commercial vehicles or equipment parked on the site, and court action. “We do need to develop a policy,” Shea said. “Obviously, you can’t run your business on a town parcel. End of story.”