CS Board Discusses Comptroller’s ‘No’ on Fire Co. Independence

Board also amends Comp Plan re: gas pipeline 

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong 

The Cold Spring Village Board heard this week that the New York State Comptroller’s Office has said “no” to the idea that the Cold Spring Fire Company is an independent institution but has found that the fire company and village can adopt a limited contract on fire protection service. At the board’s weekly workshop Dec. 6, Mayor Seth Gallagher announced the comptroller’s decision, delivered in a Nov. 30 conference call with Michael Kupferman, an attorney in the comptroller’s office, to Gallagher and representatives of the village government and Cold Spring Fire Company (CSFC.)

“To the question of, ‘is the fire company independent,’ the basic answer was ‘no,’” Gallagher said, recounting the telephone call. “Can they have a contract with the village for fire service? Yes … a contract for a fee. But the contract really should just be about the fee” and not involve questions about the firehouse or similar concerns, the mayor said. A dispute erupted last spring over the number of keys to the firehouse the fire company should give the village government, which owns the building. In the conference call, Gallagher and Trustee J. Ralph Falloon, a former CSFC chief, represented the village government and CSFC President Michael Bowman and Vice President John Landolfi represented the fire company, with attorneys for both sides also participating.

Falloon said Tuesday night that he and Trustee Bruce Campbell had talked with fire company officials on Nov. 29, continuing a dialogue begun last summer when the fire company leaders clashed with village officials – especially Mayor Gallagher – over various matters. The Nov. 29 conversation “went very well. We appear to be moving in the right direction,” Falloon reported. He said that he and Campbell and CSFC officers want to confer again soon “to digest what the comptroller had to say and get a feel of how and where we’re going from here. At this point things are going well so we want to continue that trend and move forward.”

Asked for the CSFC perspective, President Michael Bowman said Thursday that “we are confident that it’s all a matter of semantics.” The firefighters “look forward to meeting with the village trustees to bring this issue to closure,” he said. “We have been assured by both Trustees Falloon and Campbell that the village wants things to continue as they have for the past 115 years. In fact, everyone in attendance at the first meeting openly wondered why this disagreement continues. After much discussion it was the assertion of everyone, fire and village board members, that it seems to be a personal vendetta the mayor has with the volunteer fire company.”

The comptroller’s decision means that the Village Board will likely revisit a resolution it passed Sept. 6 declaring the fire company to be independent of village government control except for approval of financial expenses. Drafted by the fire company, the independence resolution passed 3 to 2 three months ago, with Falloon and Trustees Charles Hustis and Airinhos Serradas voting for it and Gallagher and Trustee Bruce Campbell opposing it and. At the time, Falloon said that the board might need to revise the measure following expected input from the comptroller’s office.

Comprehensive Plan
Pushing ahead on another oft-debated project, the Village Board amended a recommendation in the draft Comprehensive Plan to both suggest, and express reservations about, the possibility of bringing natural gas to the village. Currently, villagers rely on oil, electricity, or other means to heat their houses. At the board’s Nov. 29 meeting, some residents objected to the draft plan’s reference to natural gas. As changed by the board Tuesday night, the line now recommends that the village “study introduction of piped natural gas to the village while taking into account the potential environmental and health impacts of natural gas drilling.”

The mayor also outlined a schedule to bring the Comprehensive Plan effort to conclusion. Under his timetable, the Cold Spring Planning Board would have a month to review the plan and the Village Board – if it desired — would hold a third public hearing in early January, with a vote on the 108-page document occurring at the formal monthly meeting about a week later.

Butterfield tax mix and ‘village green’
Developer Paul Guillaro also returned to the board, to present a slightly-tweaked preliminary design for turning the former Butterfield Hospital property, which he owns, into a complex of senior-citizen apartments and condominiums. Members of the audience questioned the need for more senior housing. “This village sorely needs ratables,” said Anne Impellizzeri. “We need commercial space to bring commercial tax revenue to our village, as opposed to residential.” Impellizzeri, vice chairperson of the Special Board for a Comprehensive Plan-Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, said that Cold Spring already has “a disproportionate number of senior citizens, almost 20 percent” of the total population, compared to about 10 percent for Putnam County as a whole. Serradas said that senior housing means “zero impact” on school facilities and thus school taxes.

Gallagher proposed that in any village “a mix is needed; families need a place to live, too. Sadly,” he observed, “we have a tax structure that dictates how we make our communities,” with fear of ever-higher school taxes dictating choices.

Guillaro also said that he intended to leave about an acre of the old hospital’s existing lawn as a park-like “village green,” although he anticipates it would be managed by the condominiums. That raised questions of whether the “village green” would serve the whole village, or merely condo-dwellers. “Is there a way” to keep it public? Falloon asked, noting that his young daughter loves to sled there. “I’ll offer it to the village,” Guillaro replied. “If you want to maintain it, it’s yours.”

“I personally would like to see the condo association own it,” Serradas said. “That’s tax revenue. If we own it, we lose it [taxes] and we have to maintain it.”

Trolley
Another meeting attendee, Putnam County Legislator Vincent Tamagna, traded ideas with the board and audience on improvements to the green trolley, citing his willingness to help make the vehicle, largely funded by a federal grant, more accommodating to hikers and visitors.


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