By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
At the official re-organizational meeting last Thursday (April 7), the Cold Spring Village Board reappointed key village staff members and heads of its volunteer sub-boards, partly filled the ranks of two of the latter, and settled on committee roles for mayor and trustees. Most selections occurred without dissent, but differences arose over the rehiring of Village Attorney Stephen J. Gaba and his law firm for another year and the reappointment of some members of the Special Board for a Comprehensive Plan-Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP).
On unanimous votes, Mayor Seth Gallagher and Trustees Bruce Campbell, J. Ralph Falloon, Charles Hustis, and Airinhos Serradas quickly approved the “non-resident appointments” of Alan Steiner as acting justice, Edward Trimble as Highway Department foreman, Ellen Mageean as village accountant, William Bujarski as building inspector, and Stephen Smith as assistant building inspector and fire inspector, all for one-year terms. Continuing down a long roster of jobs, the board then filled three “resident appointments,” each also with a one-year term, and unanimously named Mary Saari as village clerk-treasurer and registrar of vital statistics; Gregory Phillips as water and sewer superintendent, and Cathy Costello as court clerk.
Unanimity disappeared when it came to reappointment of the firm of Drake, Loeb, Heller, Kennedy, Gogerty, Gaba and Rodd to provide legal representation, with Gaba as primary attorney. Splitting ranks, Serradas voted against the choice while his four colleagues voted in favor, ensuring Gaba’s return to office. Serradas gave no reason for his opposition. However, earlier in the evening, during a public hearing on the tentative 2011-12 village budget, he objected to the amount of money budgeted for legal matters. The draft budget includes $53,000 for legal expenses. “We’ve been setting these numbers fairly high in the last few years,” Serradas said. “We have an opportunity to do right by the village and control our spending. I’m wondering what this board can do to curb the amount of times we actually go to the village attorney and at the same time reduce this to $45,000.”
Gallagher responded that it’s better to put the money in the budget upfront. “And then we can reduce it” if it is not being used, he said. “Four or five years ago, the village just spent and went over budget and did nothing to control these legal expenses; did not budget appropriately to cover that. That’s one of the things that brought us into a deficit.” He said the big expense then came from a lawsuit that dragged on for two to three years but that the budgets in those years failed to provide for the expected outlays. If litigation arises but the budget contains no provisions for it, the money “is going to be spent, whether it’s in the budget or not and you’re going to go over-budget and have to try to find money somewhere else.”
To fill openings on unpaid panels, the Village Board unanimously reappointed Arne Saari to a five-year term on the Planning Board and again tapped Joseph Barbaro as chairman. The mayor and trustees likewise all agreed to name Gregory Gunder to a new five-year term on the Zoning Board of Appeals and to reappoint Donald MacDonald as ZBA chairman. It next unanimously reappointed Kathleen Foley to the Historic District Review Board, with Al Zgolinski as chairman.
Recreation Commission turn-over
The Village Board also selected three new members for the Recreation Commission, following the exit of all five incumbents. The new members, named unanimously, are Matthew Beachak, for a five-year term; Theresa Barr, for four years to fill an unexpired term; and Gloria McVey, to fill another unexpired term. Mass exodus of the prior members sent rumors swirling that four incumbents had quit because the mayor chose to not reappoint the fifth, Greg Phillips, water and sewer superintendent and son of ex-Mayor Anthony Phillips, whom Gallagher defeated in the March election as well as in 2009. Gallagher told Philipstown.info in late March that Greg Phillips had served on the commission for 10 years and that it seemed appropriate “just to change it up a little bit, get some new people on.”
Another vacancy occurred because Joe Luzzi moved away from the village several months ago, Gallagher said. A third member, George Baltich, notified Bruce Campbell and Chairman Steve Etta by e-mail on March 23 that “after serving numerous years as a member of the rec commission I have decided to step down.” Baltich did not respond to requests for elaboration, but Campbell said that Baltich had considered submitting his resignation earlier, only to put it off temporarily.
Steve Etta, who chaired the commission for four years, cited occupational reasons for stepping down. “Potential changes in my work schedule would make it difficult to find the time to dedicate to the Recreation Commission. I don’t remember when I was first appointed, but it was in the 1970s. I left for a while and was reappointed in 1993,” he explained in a March 29 e-mail to Philipstown.info. Phil Etta told Philipstown.info that he left because “it’s just time to move on. I’d been on there for quite a while. I’m not sure of the exact year” of initial appointment, but it was around 1978, he said. He added that he knew of no personal reasons that would have prompted the others to quit.
“They did good work. We will miss them,” Gallagher said of the erstwhile members in a phone conversation March 26. “These guys put a lot of time in.” He said the Recreation Commission maintains the ball fields, schedules use of Mayor’s Park and the bandstand and waterfront, coordinates use of recreational facilities with the Haldane school district, oversees the annual holiday decorations and activities, and handles similar tasks. New member Barr, proprietor of the hiking and kayaking store Hudson Valley Outfitters on Main Street, enthusiastically welcomed her new responsibility. “I really think it’s a great fit, because I have been involved in safety and logistics for the last 10 years in an outdoor setting,” she said April 8. “And I’m very excited to give something back to the village.”
Special Board appointments
During its re-organizational meeting, the Village Board also took up the re-appointment of members of the Comprehensive Plan-LWRP Special Board, who serve only one-year terms, unlike members of most village committees who have longer tenures. The Village Board agreed unanimously to reappoint Michael Armstrong, Karen Doyle; Marie Early; Anne Impellizzeri, and Michael Reisman. All the Village Board members except Gallagher voted to likewise reappoint Anthony Phillips and Cathryn Fadde. The board declined to reappoint Marshall Mermell and Catharine J. Square, with Serradas and Hustis favoring those reappointments and Gallagher, Falloon and Campbell voting against them. On the reappointment of Armstrong as chairman, the Village Board split 4 to 1, with Serradas casting the lone “opposed” vote. However, the Village Board unanimously reappointed Impellizzeri as vice chairperson and Early as secretary.
Non-appointment of Square and Mermell leaves two openings on the Special Board. According to an April 8 notice, the voluntary position involves approximately 15 – 20 hours of work weekly, attendance at two regular monthly meetings, currently held on the 2nd and 4th Thursday from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., and additional meetings for committee activities. The village asks candidates to provide Village Clerk Saari with an application giving their background, qualifications, and an indication of a willingness and ability to devote the necessary time. The deadline is 4 p.m., Monday, April 25.
Last Thursday, the Village Board also divvied up the chairmanships of its internal committees: Public Safety — Falloon, Finance, Personnel — Gallagher; Economic Development, Parking — Serradas; Public Works and Infrastructure, Insurance and Risk Management — Campbell; and Energy Efficiency and Environment — Hustis.
I would love to know the real reason Mayor Gallagher didn’t invite Greg Phillips back to the Recreation Commission. Or why the Mayor voted to not reappoint Anthony Phillips or Cathryn Fadde back to the Comprehensive Board. Or why the Mayor and two other newly reelected Trustees voted to not give Marshall Mermell and Catharine J. Square their spots back at the Comp Board table.
Could it be that all of the reelected Village politicians (Gallagher, Falloon and Campbell) were all endorsed and supported by the Working Village Group and those who were denied reappointment voted differently?
The easiest way to move forward an agenda is to fill the jury box with supporters and sympathetic special interests — “yes-men”.
I refer everyone back to one of Mayor Gallagher’s campaign slogans “open, respectful and welcoming to all citizens” — how do any of the actions detailed above fit the spirit of that promise?
*edited for spelling
I would love to know the real reason the previous poster is always so conspiratorial minded about everything.
I guess it’s easier to continually yell about everything, point fingers, and cast dispersions than actually participate in a meaningful way.
Because Thomas A. i’m rather good at math and the numbers keep adding up 1,2,3.