By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
The latest budget projections show the Village of Cold Spring ending its fiscal year May 31 with more than $50,000 in surplus, despite a winter of high snow removal expenses and expected revenue decreases. According to a nine-month analysis by Ellen Mageean, village accountant, the village expects to be down $196,912 in anticipated revenue for 2010-11 but to be under-budget on expenses by $249,127. That leaves an anticipated positive balance of $52,215 as of the end of May. Mageean discussed her survey with the Village Board at its formal monthly meeting March 8. Both the nearly $200,000 less in revenue and the almost $250,000 in less spending in part reflect a pending, federally assisted Main Street improvement program, which the village will not implement before the fiscal year ends. The new fiscal year begins June 1.
After a hard winter, the village expects to have spent $11,900 more in snow removal than the $34,000 budgeted. However, it also has spent $11,000 less on other street and sidewalk activity, with much of the department’s attention devoted to snow in recent months, and also has transferred funds into the snow-removal category from other areas of the budget with untapped resources.
On the positive variance side for 2010-11, Mageean cited $14,000 anticipated in state funding for the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, a near twin to the village’s work on the Comprehensive Plan. “It takes them a while,” she said. “I’m hoping to have it before the end of the year.” She explained that even if the money fails to arrive by May 31, it will be recorded as accruing in 2010-11 because it reimburses work undertaken this fiscal year.
“It’s paper money that doesn’t really exist yet,” Trustee Airinhos Serradas commented.
“There is really no reason why the money wouldn’t be received,” Mageean replied.
Mayor Seth Gallagher described the village finances as on track as the budget year enters its last quarter. “Even with the additional snow removal expenses, we’re pretty much where we thought we would be,” he said. “Going forward for next year’s budget, we can actually think about taking a portion of that savings and putting it into next year’s budget.” Some funds might be used for the firehouse floor, the mayor suggested. “That’ll keep the tax rate down” and at the same time “keep a recommended 10 percent of our budget as surplus” or reserve, he said. Gallagher also announced that work is underway on drafting the fiscal 2011-12 budget, with a public hearing slated for April 7.
The collapsing firehouse floor
Building Inspector William Bujarski gave the board a sobering overview of the deteriorating floor in the firehouse public room. The firehouse is on the site of a former gasoline station and garage and has a concrete-slab floor in the public room, used by the Cold Spring Fire Company and by the village for meetings and elections. The building inspector said that the garage contained three “open bays, open pits down there,” which allowed auto mechanics to get under the vehicles they fixed. When it became the firehouse, “they used rubble; they used almost anything to fill in” the pits and poured concrete atop the filled hole, he said. Now, with the shifting of the rubble over the years, “the slab is dropping. The slab is in the air, probably over where the old pits were,” with air voids of at least 4 inches in places, Bujarski said. He said that the Highway Department had bored sample holes in the floor to allow a glimpse of what lies below — or what doesn’t, as the case may be. The village should “open it up and see what’s going on,” he advised. “We need to know more before we actually go forward.”
He outlined three possible approaches and said the most viable would require removing the entire concrete slab, addressing any problems below, filling in with stable material as needed, and installing a new floor. “A new slab will provide a lasting solution,” he wrote the board in a memo accompanying his remarks. He and board members suggested the remediation would cost $20,000. Trustee J. Ralph Falloon mentioned fire company interest in excavation of the floor to allow creation of a full basement for storage “for the fire department now, the fire department in the future, if we stay there. Whatever happens to the building, it is our building; the village owns it.” And whether the fire company continues to operate from it, the village offices eventually move there, or the village sells it, “it’s a potential investment” and asset, he said. He asked that the Village Board postpone an immediate decision until the fire company can confer with Bujarski and consider options and feasibility. “That floor is collapsing. What kind of safety hazard are we dealing with?” Serradas wondered. Fire company president Michael Bowman similarly wondered if the firefighters can continue to use the space. Bujarski provided an informal opinion that the building could continue to be used. For routine village or fire company meetings, “you’re not packed wall to wall,” he pointed out. “I don’t see it as a problem.”
Sludge to fertilizer project
In other business, the board got an update from Gregory Phillips, superintendent of the water and sewer departments, on repairs to sewer pipes. Earlier on Tuesday, the department notified the public of the beginning of work by a contractor to correct Inflow and Infiltration (I & I) of storm water into the sewer pipe system. Expected to be completed by sometime on Friday, the work involves Main Street between Garden Street and Depot Square. “The I & I causes a hydraulic overload to the facility, and can wash out some of the treated waste solids to the Hudson River,” the department stated in its notice. Dated March 8, Phillips’ written report to the board mentioned the ongoing I & I problem, exacerbated by recent heavy rain and melting snow, so that for two days the inflow into the treatment plant exceeded what the facility was designed to handle. “As an example” of the demand, he wrote, “February’s average daily flow was 226,000 gallons a day, while flow for the past two days was 573,000 and 560,000 gallons each.” The repairs undertaken this week “will help to reduce those numbers,” he added.
He also briefly outlined a plan to handle the sewage treatment plant’s solids better and perhaps turn them into a helpful commodity, utilizing idle $25,000 equipment which, at a cost of $4,000 to $5,000, could be moved from the separate water treatment plant in North Highlands. The equipment “could enable us to de-water some of the digester sludge “¦ and dispose of it as a solid,” he wrote. “It could help us stay in better control of solids inventory,” which “could possibly even be recycled as fertilizer.” He proposed a two-month trial of the sludge project. “Investing $4,000 to $5,000 to get $25,000 of equipment to work makes sense — invest a little bit of money to get that much more,” from it, Falloon said in offering the resolution to authorize the move. The measure passed unanimously.
$7,500 Putnam County trash payment
The board also received a visit from District 1 County Legislator Vincent Tamagna, who presented a check for $7,500 to help pay for trash collection after outdoor village events that draw attendance from a wide area. But he said the village should not expect any share of sales tax soon. Unlike other counties in New York State, Putnam does not return any sales tax revenue to local governments, not even a portion of the money generated by sales in that municipality. “We’re in pretty bad shape” at the county level, Tamagna informed the board. “Whatever sales tax we have right now is probably going to filling the gaps.”
Photo by L.S. Armstrong