By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
In a formal monthly meeting remarkable for brevity — about 45 minutes — the Cold Spring Village Board set the stage for more action on two high-interest issues — commercial-boat docking at the waterfront and pedestrian safety at crosswalks. Mayor Seth Gallagher, who favors allowing small commercial vessels, such as tour boats, to dock at the waterfront, declared his intent to revisit the matter. Backed by many local residents, but opposed by others, his efforts earlier this year to amend the village code to legalize docking by commercial vessels hit rough shoals, at least temporarily.
“I want to put it on the agenda for next week’s meeting [May 17] so we can talk about anything that we need to. I would like, hopefully, to have a vote on that,” he announced. Gallagher said that on Monday he filled out a permission slip for his daughter to take a school trip that involves boarding a boat in Garrison to go to Constitution Island and that he wants to see Haldane School students be able to board a boat for such trips right in Cold Spring. At present, village law only authorizes unique vessels, such as historic educational boats, to dock for short periods, typically on special occasions, such as the 4th-of-July Community Day celebration. The proposed law would apply to any “contrivance used on or capable of being used as a means of transportation in water” and affect boats seeking to moor at the wharf as well as those that anchor within 100 feet, with the Village Board considering each applicant on a case-by-case basis. Village officials drafted the proposed measure last winter after the captain of a former Coast Guard buoy tender asked to base her boat at the waterfront and offer tours from Cold Spring, for a fee of $9,000 per year. Although she received a positive, if tentative response, from the Village Board last December, action stalled as objections arose in some quarters of the village. Subsequently she decided to make Peekskill her headquarters instead. However, Gallagher said that she still wants to bring her boat to Cold Spring on tours and that “we have interest from West Point” about docking boats well. “This law would allow a commercial vessel to apply for a permit to take school kids or whomever [and] also to stop by on a weekend. It’s a way to connect West Point and Constitution Island to Cold Spring,” he said. Under the proposed law, he emphasized, “It’s still up to the board who gets a permit to dock at the waterfront and who doesn’t.”
Moving ashore from water-related issues, the Village Board unanimously passed a resolution seeking New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) assistance in planning new crosswalks. In the resolution, the board cited its concern “for the safety of pedestrians on state roads Routes 301 and 9D,” known as Main Street and Chestnut Street in the village. Referring to a 2009 traffic study, the resolution proposes new crosswalks for Chestnut Street at Cherry Street, Paulding Avenue, and Oak Street, all in the Foodtown shopping corridor, as well as one at Academy Street and Main Street, near the Haldane campus. The resolution points out that a 2009 traffic engineering study recommended adding more crosswalks to Chestnut Street. Moreover, the resolution continues, the Academy Street intersection “is frequently used by school children” and “has been the site of accidents involving pedestrians and vehicles in the recent past.”
Trustee Bruce Campbell, who has led the push for street safety, said the NYSDOT is expected to conduct on-site visits to evaluate the situation. The 2009 traffic study, by the RBA Group Inc., stated that “most of Cold Spring’s residents live within walking distance of the downtown area of Main Street, making pedestrian safety a significant concern. Cold Spring is a walkable community and its residents include elderly people and parents with strollers and young children.” The traffic circulation pattern “results in inevitable conflicts between motorists and pedestrians,” RBA determined. In the Foodtown commercial area, the study warned, even with two existing two crosswalks “drivers rounding the curve at the southern end of the study area may not remain conscious of potential pedestrians ahead.” In urging the installation of “several new crossings,” RBA said that each should not only be striped and sign-posted as usual but “paved with a decorative, brick-like material,” to further set them off from the street surface. Total cost of the project would be $820,932, according to RBA.
Diving for savings, solar power and insurance reviews
In other business, Trustees J. Ralph Falloon, Charles Hustis, and Airinhos Serradas all reported on past or pending moves to save village money. Falloon said that cooperation between the village and Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department had spared Cold Spring about $4,500 in expenses when the Mahopac firefighters used a Cold Spring reservoir for a diving training exercise and did some underwater repair work on a valve in the process. Similar work previously had involved hiring a diving team, he said.
Hustis reported that he had undertaken surveys with Falloon and Steven Burke of Smart Systems on the feasibility of installing solar panels on village buildings “so that we can line ourselves up for any available energy grant opportunities.” Furthermore, he said, “I looked at all the bills from Central Hudson and tried to see [on] which properties that we own we can try and become more energy efficient. For instance, I looked at the bills for the Main Street lights and we are charged on average $3,044.87,” based on the last 12 months of bills. He said he plans to talk to Central Hudson, the area electricity supplier, about possible cost-cutting.
Serradas informed his colleagues that he has begun meeting with an insurance agent because “one thing we’ve been trying to do is determine how we can still maintain the same kind of service, the same type of health insurance benefits, for our employees and cut our costs.” He proposed that he work with Campbell to pursue options. The mayor interjected that “we spend about $150,000 per year on health care totals.” Serradas said that his initial meeting with the insurer “showed that there’s at least $100,000 in savings that we could actually bring to the village. I think that’s a tremendous tax savings all around. And that’s just on the initial [review].”
“I look forward to seeing that on paper — $100,000,” Gallagher responded.
“There’s actually more, but I want to downplay it,” Serradas assured him.
Village Account Ellen Mageean told Philipstown.info on May 12 that the $150,000 cited by the mayor is for the 2010-11 fiscal year spending, for both current and retired employees, paid through the general fund, the village’s main budget. If the costs of coverage for water and sewer departments, which have separate budgets, are factored in, the total is $218,975, Mageean said. The Village Board concluded Tuesday’s public meeting by adjourning to enter into executive session with the village attorney to discuss questions involving the Cold Spring Fire Company.
Photos by L.S. Armstrong