End of year wrap-up for Philipstown board

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

The Philipstown Town Board wrapped up 2010 last week looking ahead to creation of a senior center at the old Butterfield Hospital site and installation of the long-anticipated traffic light at Route 9 and Fishkill Road in 2011. In its end-of the-year session on Dec. 29, the board also took care of routine business, such as authorizing Supervisor Richard Shea to sign a $15,000 contract with the Putnam County Office of the Aging for outreach in 2011 and a $10,500 agreement with the Putnam County Humane Society for its assistance in handling strays and providing related services. Councilman John Van Tassel termed the Humane Society share “greatly reduced” from the previous year. For fiscal 2010, the Town allocated $17,031 for contractual dog-control services.

Butterfield Hospital
Shea told the board and audience that he and the owner of the Butterfield Hospital had discussed possibilities for the site, focus of as-yet-unrealized Putnam County interest. “I don’t think he’s going to wait for the county for any of this,” Shea said. “I think he’s going to go ahead and develop the site on his own” and open it for leasing. “I think that’s something we’ll have to look at, at a minimum with regard to a space for the seniors. Seniors have gotten short shrift for a long time. I’m committed to getting a space for the seniors in that building, regardless of how we do it. What that space is, what the dollar amounts are, that all remains to be seen.”

Financial options could include a partnership deal, grants, levy to raise funds, or other arrangement, he said, suggesting that the board begin considering approaches when it meets in a workshop Jan. 12. Van Tassel said a senior center at the Butterfield property could serve a dual purpose of providing the town with a better public meeting hall as well. Shea added town offices and the town court sessions to the list of possibilities as well. “It’s just not entirely necessary to have the court in this building,” at Town Hall, he said. “If we were all moving over there, it would be ideal. I don’t know if we can afford that.”

Approximately 140 years old, Town Hall uses steep a stairway to reach the meeting room, which limits access to handicapped individuals. Shea added that leasing facilities at the Butterfield site also allows the town to make changes, should an alternative spot for a senior facility or other town quarters become available in the future. The Butterfield property could host mixed uses, once renovated and finished, he said. “I’m sure the post office will wind up over there.” Currently located across the street from the Butterfield site on Chestnut Street, the U.S. Postal Service branch in Cold Spring is scheduled to lose its lease this year.

Van Tassel noted that “there’s plenty of parking” at the old hospital to meet assorted needs, including those of senior citizens, unlike the situation at Town Hall, where the public usually parks on the street. “And it’s pedestrian-friendly, too,” Councilwoman Betty Budney pointed out. “People from town, from the village, can walk.”

Traffic light for Fishkill Rd at Rte 9
Following a question from the audience, the board also discussed the ongoing problem of a lack of a traffic light at Route 9 and Fishkill Road. “The last we heard, it was in the hands of the DOT,- the New York State Department of Transportation,” Shea said. “Trying to get somebody to do something for you at DOT – tough sell.” Van Tassel reported that when he attended a meeting of the county transportation safety board, in early November, he learned that the work awaited the return of bids. “They said once that happened it was going to be done as soon as they awarded the contract. That was prior to the “upheaval in the county government,” he added. Elected as county executive in November, former State Sen. Vincent Leibell declined the job when he pleaded guilty to federal charges of corruption, prompting a scramble to find an interim substitute. (On New Year’s Day, the County Legislature named Paul Eldridge, county personnel director, to the post.)

Councilwoman Nancy Montgomery commented that the town board has been seeking the traffic light since at least 2007. “I think we’ve done a lot to try to put pressure on them.” She encouraged a citizen letter-writing campaign to influence the state. “I think public comment does go a long way, because you know how that goes with us.” Shea expressed exasperation. “You have the whole county on this, you have the town. And you have DOT, – like, what? The shame of it is, if somebody gets killed out there you’ll have a light the following week. And you’ll have a memorial sign and all the B.S. that goes with it. It’s terrible; it’s terrible to say that it takes somebody either getting seriously injured or killed” to get action. Then, “you’ll see them up there, working their tails off,” to install a light. Otherwise, “it doesn’t happen. You can’t get a traffic light on this side of the county. Why? We don’t know, we’re completely mystified.”

Members of Citizens of Philipstown.Org, at odds last year with the Town Board over the planned rezoning until further changes in the draft seemed to address concerns, promised to come to the town’s aid. Van Tassel said he would coordinate the effort among town officials and public. “We’ll take that on and put on as much pressure as we can as regular citizens,” J. Carlos Salcedo assured the board. “We’ll coordinate – and shoot where you guys need help.”

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Armstrong was the founding news editor of The Current (then known as Philipstown.info) in 2010 and later a senior correspondent and contributing editor for the paper. She worked earlier in Washington as a White House correspondent and national affairs reporter and assistant news editor for daily international news services. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Areas of expertise: Politics and government